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On Wednesday I celebrated my 26th born again day – the day I became a Christian.

I was invited to youth by a friend in class who had never talked to me about God or youth group or anything before, she just turned to me and said do you wanna come to youth group.   I said yes.  Because God had been at work in my life way before then to draw me to him.

But sometimes we forget this.  We forget the power of invitation.  We forget about how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  We forget that God uses us to share the gospel and to invite people to church.

We get busy with life and family and work and doing, and we forget that Jesus Himself said that He came to seek and save the lost.  His priority mission was one of rescue.

I want to take Evangelism out of the too hard basket and help us see that this is something we can do in our everyday real lives, with everyday real people, being our everyday real selves.

It is not something for just special super spiritual people. It is not just something for pastors.  It is not even something just for extroverts.

It is the on earth mission that Jesus has given every single one of us if we are Christians.

Read the rest of this entry »

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In 1985 Clarence Duncan arrived in Africa as missionary to the solidly Muslim people called the Yao who live mainly in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi. When he settled in his village, he called for a meeting with the elders. After the pleasantries the chief asked him his name. Clarence replied, “Mr. Clarence.”

The council looked at each other for a moment and then the chief asked, “Why are you here?”

Again Clarence simply said, “I want to tell your people about Isa Al Mahsi (Jesus the Messiah).”

A couple months later, when the chief decided he could trust Clarence, he said, “Do you know why we allowed you to stay?”

Clarence said, “I never thought about it.”

“Twenty-one years ago a very old Yao man came to our village and called for a meeting as you did. When we asked him his name, this Yao man said, ‘Mr. Clarence’—which isn’t an African name at all! When we asked him why he came, he said, ‘I want to tell your people about Isa Al Mahsi.’ These were your very words. Twenty-one years ago Mr. Clarence led four of our villagers to follow Jesus. So we ran them out of the village. And we killed Mr. Clarence. The reason we allowed you to stay was we were afraid.”

That was 1985. Two years ago on a January morning 24 Muslim elders approached Clarence Duncan’s house. After a meal the leader sat in the middle of the room and said that they had come to ask questions about Christianity. Clarence said fine but that he would only answer them by reading from the Bible so they would know he did not invent the answers. So he gave each of them a Bible in the trade language. The first question was, “Why do you Christians say that there are three gods?”

Clarence said the answer was found in Deuteronomy 6:4 and gave them the page: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God. The Lord is one!” And he mentioned that Isa (Jesus) said this very thing in Mark 12:29.

The questioning went on till five in the afternoon. When all had left, the leader, Sheik Abu Bakr, stayed and asked if he could see Clarence in a week.

When they met Abu asked if Clarence knew why they came to see him last week. Clarence said he assumed it was to ask questions. But Abu said, “No, it was because the Christian church is growing so fast we knew we had to kill you. We had consulted for three days and prepared our magic. You were to be struck dumb when we asked questions, then fall on the ground paralyzed and then die. But when you kept talking, and even stood up and moved around, we knew you had a stronger Spirit and gave up.”

Then Abu said, “I want to become a Christian.” And he told an amazing story.

“When I was a teenager, in our village we were not Muslim people and we were not Christian. We were Achewa people with our own religion. Behind our village was a hill where I would often go to pray.

“One day I was on that hill praying. Suddenly all around me was a blinding light. Out of this light I saw a big hand coming toward me holding an open book. I looked at the book and saw writing on the page. A Voice told me to read. I protested that I could not read, never having been to school. The Voice again told me to read. So I did. And suddenly the book and the hand disappeared.

“I ran back to my village and all the people were looking for me, thinking I had died on that hill! They asked about a fire they had seen up there. When I told them the story, they laughed at me saying, You can’t read!

“Someone got a book and I began to read! Then people came from all around to find out more about what happened and asked questions. The Muslim authorities found out about me and I was trained in the ways of Islam. Soon all or our village became Muslim. For 15 years I was the greatest debater against the Christians.”

He paused and then said, “You remember when I asked you the first question about why Christians believe in three gods? Your answer was Deuteronomy chapter 6, verse 4.”

“That’s right,” Clarence said.

Sheik Abu Bakr looked Clarence Duncan in the eye and said, “That was the same passage that this Voice on the mountain showed me. At that moment I knew that the God you were talking about was the True God!”

“Then why did you keep asking me all those questions the whole day?”

“Because,” he smiled, “I wanted all these Muslim leaders to know what the Christians believe and I wanted them to hear it from you. The whole day I pretended unbelief so that I could ask more questions. Now I want to become a Christian.”

 

from https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-leading-of-the-lord-in-personal-evangelism

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Francis of Assai said “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.”  Our whole lives are opportunities to demonstrate God and His power to save and transform.  But there are times when WORDS are necessary to communicate the message of salvation.  People usually don’t learn about the Good News by osmosis!

As Christians everyday we encounter people who may need to know the Good News about God.  How do we go from “ordinary” conversation to talking about God?

And how do we go and talk to complete strangers about God?

People are hungry for encounter with the real God.  Within each person is a desire for forgiveness and innocence.   Salvation isn’t an optional extra for life, it is a necessary essential, just as a parachute is a necessary essential for people about to jump out of a plane.  As saved people we are called to tell others about the wonderful kindness and eternal rescue that we have experienced.  God didn’t give the job to the angels but He gave it those who live the Gospel to tell the Gospel.

“Lost people matter to God, and so they must matter to us.” Keith Wright

We are called and empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us to GO but sometimes taking that first step can be the hardest obstacle to get over.

Here are a few simple things that we can do or know that can set us up for successful conversations about God with strangers.

Know what The Message is.

We don’t need to be Bible scholars, able to exegesis about the greater meaning of the third toe on the beasts left foot, but I think it is important to know your Bible – for personal reasons, you’re learning not just facts about God, but you are learning His promises and guidance for your own life, but also so that you have some answers to peoples questions.

1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have

Some people have religious backgrounds, others have studied philosophy and in this postmodern age everyone has an opinion on spirituality but the Word of God reveals to us WHO God really is and WHAT He has really done.   The answers found in the Bible will challenge and convict and get all the way in because they are just not ordinary words but contain power from God.

Know WHAT the Gospel is.  What did Jesus do and why?  Prepare yourself to answer people’s questions.

And perhaps more importantly – believe it.  Know it and believe it.

Know who YOU are, and what your style is.

Really?  Yes really.  In a way we’re all tailor-made with keys and strategies that help communicate the Gospel.   I’m not talking about just personality and being an extravert, but about a way of connecting with people and communicating the Gospel.

For myself, if I am out talking to strangers along Eastern Beach I often start with the question “Are you interested in God?”  This was a question and strategy that God gave me one morning while I was praying that I have found very effective.  Most people ARE interested in spiritual things!

I asked some of my evangelistically wired friends what they do when talking to pre Christians, if they had a personal style in evangelism.  One friend replied that he likes to use creation and science to open peoples eyes to the reality of God.  Another likes to pray and introduce people to God through Holy Spirit encounter.  Ray Comfort, international evangelist, uses the 10 commandments and tracts to communicate the need for a Saviour.

Discover your own personal style and then flow with that.

Recognize conversation TRANSITIONS

This is especially important in everyday interactions and conversations with friends, workmates etc, but can also play an important part in talking to complete strangers in an evangelism context.   Learn to recognize the moments in a conversation where you can talk about God, or flow the conversation in another direction.   Learn how to ask open questions about what they believe and then reply with your own testimony.  It takes practice to learn how to do this, and often in hindsight you can more clearly identify something that could have springboarded into talking about God.

It’s a PROCESS

Revival is about as much of a miracle as a crop of wheat. If you don’t plow, sow, water and reap you will never see a revival. If you plant the seed God has given you and pray over the place where you live and partner with the Holy Spirit you will watch God move in your region this year.  Andrew Robertson

Remember – our job is to plant seeds and water seeds others have planted – it is God who grows the plant!  Every conversation you have is doing something!   Each time you talk to someone God is doing something.  He is doing a hidden work in their hearts to draw them to Himself.

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Just do it!  Just start.  Fight the fear and just do it.  When the opportunity arises to go to the beach with someone to invite people to church go along and join in.  Go and watch someone in action.   Some people are wired to love evangelism and talking to strangers, but most people aren’t.  There is no out clause on the Great Commission though.  It’s totally fine to feel nervous about stepping out.  But don’t let that restrict you.  Overcome the fear.   It’s easier than you expect.

Above all else, it goes almost without saying, be in love with Jesus and know His everlasting love for you.  Be always falling more in love with Him and be transformed by His power.  This will be communicated, without words, to those you talk to and are with each day.

Evangelism is simply sharing what you’ve been shown. Simple. Let’s not complicate it.  We are called to be witnesses and ambassadors of the Good News of salvation, found only in Jesus Christ.  Let’s get out there and do it – there is a whole world ready to hear!

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Would you like to come to church with me sometime?”

Few Christians would disagree with the principle of this question. We might even agree that inviting people to church is a key part of evangelism and central to the mission of any church body. And get this, people actually want to be invited to church, too: 9 out of 10 unchurched people say they would come to church if invited, according to researcher Thom Rainer.

The only problem is, we rarely ask the question.

This next stat is a tough pill to swallow: about 1 in 5 of us churchgoers invites anybody to church in the course of a year, per Rainer. We might have someone who could be totally up for it right in front of us, practically beckoning us to invite them, and instead we hesitate and hem and haw and sometimes don’t even get the words out of our mouths.

We need to:

  1. PRAY YOU’D HAVE GOD’S HEART FOR THE LOST
  2. PRAY FOR COURAGE
  3. PRAY FOR SPECIFIC PEOPLE
  4. REMEMBER YOUR OWN CALLING
  5. REMEMBER THE GOSPEL
  6. TRUST IN THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL TO SAVE
  7. KNOW THAT SHARING THE HOPE OF ETERNITY IS LOVING
  8. KNOW THAT IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

Then we need to JUST DO IT.

Let’s get our brave on and do it afraid and see the awesome things that God will do through us as we step out.

 

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The start of the year is a great time to refocus and catch God’s heart for our lives.  Many people make resolutions, make lifestyle changes, take holidays as well as those who start new jobs or new courses.

We’ve been talking about Occupying your Occupation at the start of this year at church – getting a vision for a significant part of our lives, and reframing it from just work to being on mission.

God has placed us in our workplace, our classes, our circles of influence on purpose and with a purpose and when we catch His heart for these spaces in our lives we can see significant things happen. Read the rest of this entry »

 

life speak

There is a quote by St Francis of Assisi that says “preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”

And I usually hate that quote.

Seriously.

I think people have used it as a spiritual cop out for actually talking to people about Jesus.   That they’ll just live their life and people will just look and see and just get it.

I’m more the peach the gospel at all times and use your words as well!  Im more the subliminal message gospel by osmosis thing doesn’t fly so speak up and be radically bold and just be real and tell your story.

 

But.

Our lives can often speak louder than what we say with our lips.

Our lives speak loudly.

Our lives can either back up what we say with our lips or can tell a whole different story.

 

Tonight I want to challenge you to live a life that loudly shows people that God is real, that He is good, that you can find hope and love and grace with Him, that living for Jesus is the best way to live and that He has real answers for real problems.

 

“The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift.”  — Francis Chan

 

Your life speaks loudly when you have faith to step out and do something for God, just as Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on water.

Your life speaks loudly when you say yes to God like the boy with his lunch that fed the 5000.

Your life tells a message when you choose to trust God in the face of your problems – like Joshua and the Israelites did when they circled the city of Jericho with its massive walls in silence for 7 days.

Your life tells a message when you make a choice to do what God wants even if its counter culture, like Daniel and his friends did when they refused to eat the kings food or bow down to idols or give up praying.

 

The Bible says in Philippians 2:15

Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

So that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world

 

Breaking that down it says live lives that reflect who God is.  Live lives that shine for Him.  Live lives that are clean and pure so that you stand out in a generation of darkness, a generation that lives for themselves, a generation lost.

 

 

What kind of message is your life speaking?

 

Let’s look more at Daniel and his mates, Shadrach, Mesach and abendigo.

They were 3 fine young men, born in Israel, but taken into exile in Babylon.  Their countries were at war and Babylon won and so they king there took most of the fine young men, the potential leaders, with him to Babylon.  The kings plan was to change the culture of this captured country by assimilating the key influencers to be like them.

All around us we have a culture saying BE THIS, DO THIS, LOOK LIKE THIS. We follow trends and brands and shape ourselves to fit in. There is pressure to conform and culture tries to desensitize us to the lax standards of the world so that we wont stand out or stand up for God.

But Daniel and his friends made a choice to not blend in but to stand out.

 

Let’s read about what happened in Daniel 1:

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. 16 So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.

 

You may not ever have to make stand on what you order for lunch but there are things that go on around us every day that we need to make choices about:

 

How we dress

What we watch on tv or youtube or play on xbox

Movies we go to

How we talk

Dating and flirting and all that

 

But deeper than that – cos those things are more like external symptoms of the inside standards – how we treat other people, do we join in the gossip or speak words of encouragement, do we join in with the smutty conversation or change the topic, will we be honest at all times, generosity, kindness, forgiving someone and moving on, trusting that God will do what He says He will do and be who He says He will be, that He has a plan and a purpose in our lives and for our lives…

 

It’s the times that we change the conversation from tearing someone down to building someone up.

It’s the times we turn up to church even though we could have slept in.  It matters.  It shows that church is a priority.

It’s the attitude we serve in when someone asks you to move the chairs, or fill in for the car park guy who didn’t turn up.

It’s the respect we show in the classroom.

It’s the language we use.

It’s the loops we allow our thoughts to ride on…. Do we let them loop around like a record player saying you’re a failure, worry worry worry, who do you think you are… or do you smash that record and start a new loop that has the voice of God that says you’re an overcomer, God’s got this and that He loves you and has a plan and a purpose for your life.  The words we speak and what we think about most determine what we believe.  And what we believe will leak out in our actions and words, in the way we live.  They will preach.

Small things eh.  They tell a story about who we are living our life for.

Never discount how much of an impact these small acts make on those in our world.

 

It’s interesting to note at the end of Daniel 1 we read that IN EVERY MATTER OF WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING THESE GUYS WERE BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE. Why? Because they were faithful to God and so He was faithful to them.

God wants your life to the best life He can give.  He wants to take you on God adventures.  He has plans and purposes, dreams for your life.

God doesn’t want you to miss out.

The way to live that adventure and to do all that God has purposed for us is to live a life that consistently shows that living for Jesus is real for us.

 

Now I want to add a disclaimer.  None of us is perfect.  That is why Jesus came.  He is the only perfect one.  We all have flaws and make mistakes.  We all have good days when we feel really on fire and amped and its easy to shine, and we all have days when it feels like we shouldn’t have gotten out of bed because everything we did and do was wrong.  We are all growing.  There is grace to cover that.  This is not a message to make you feel stink.  It is to challenge you and if you’re feeling challenged ask yourself why….

 

I want to finish up by reading one verse to you 4 times, 4 different ways.   It is God’s invitation to live a life that shines bright like a diamond, shines bright like stars in the dark sky.  It is God’s invitation to step out and see Him step in.  You are not created to blend in, you are invited to stand out.

 

You are invited to let your life  speak of the amazing things that God does.  To shout with your life that God’s grace is real and covers every mistake, that His love is real and never runs out.

 

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV

Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. CEV

Do not be conformed to this world, fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs, but be transformed and changed by the entire renewal of your mind by its new ideals and its new attitude, so that you may prove for yourselves what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. AMP

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. MSG

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When I was fairly newly saved a guy who prayed for me at a youth group meeting said he felt God wanted me to go home and read Acts 29.

Now you may have just gone through the files of your mind and thought, wait a minute…. there is no Acts 29.  Acts finishes, albeit somewhat suddenly and with the hint of a comma in Acts 28.

As a new Christian I had no reference and I went home, and yes, searched diligently for Acts 29.

Was this guy wrong? Was he not hearing God?

Or was he mocking me???  What was going on!

I talked to him at church on sunday following and I confess, I was kind of miffed.   I leaned more on the “he was mocking me” side of things.

And then he told me that Acts 29 is the chapter that is written by MY LIFE. That I am Acts 29. That it is the exploits that me and God do together for the sake of His Gospel and His Church. It is the adventure that God and I have together with prayer and seeking His face, and God working through me to reach those around me.

Acts 29 is the church today, you and me today, expressing and living for Jesus in power, authority and love.

Acts 29 is the adventure that YOU have in your family, in your circle of friends, at your school, at your job, making God real.  It is the record of exploits you do to make God famous.  It is the conversations you have that are about spiritual things.  It is the moments you make a stand for righteousness, it is the decision you make to not fit in with what the world says but to follow God with everything.

So how do we live an Acts 29 life?

Read the rest of this entry »

claire dp 1When I was 16 I lived in Blenheim and would get awesome summer jobs at fruit farms over the holidays.  One year I worked for The Jones Strawberry Farm picking strawberries, a delicious but back breaking job.  I then worked for an Apricot farmer, as a picker first of all, but then in the pack house because as we quickly discovered being near the ground is an excellent quality for a strawberry picker, not so great for an apricot picker.   My day revolved around sorting the fruit, packing the fruit, stacking the packs of fruit.  Sort, stack, pack.  I was the only one in the pack house and so spent long hot days sorting, stacking, packing.

On Tuesday a friend of mine shared a hilarious take on the myers briggs personality types on facebook – The post begins with “They say that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to the sixteen Myers-Briggs Personality Types. Each one is inspired, enraged and absolutely tortured by something slightly different. Here’s the destiny that would psychologically destroy each Myers-Briggs Personality type.”

Im and ENFP and this is what it said about me.  Every minute of the rest of your life has been scheduled for you – and it’s a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks.

Sort. Pack. Stack.  By myself.  Sort. Pack. Stack.   For 2 long months.  Thankfully not the rest of my life.   The first few days of the job were great.  Good time to pray and think, I’m by myself, I can contemplate the great mysteries of the universe and dream and plan my future.  After about a week of sort, pack and stack, by myself, a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks, I found myself going slightly cookcoo, because how many of you know, especially if you are an ENFP there is only so much deep and meaningful productive positive thinking you can do by yourself.. through another person in the mix and boom, you’re happy, but conversating with yourself, just isn’t the same. and contemplating what is the meaning of life.  The big questions.  What was I here for.  What is God’s plan for my life.  How will I get there.  Who am I, really.

Whether you’re in a job you hate or a job you love, whether you’re at school or uni, whatever stage of life you’re at these are important questions.  What does real living look like?  Because there is a difference between being alive and living, really living.

We can go through life, even successfully, ticking the boxes that define achievement for us, getting the great job, marrying the great person, having the great kids and the great cat and the great house, travelling to the great places etc etc but even that can miss the mark of what living really is.

 

Paul summed it up in 4 simple words in Philippians 1:21

To live is Christ.

This is one those rare times when Paul is brief.  Usually he has sentence with too many commas and plenty of detail and flesh.  But this one is 4 words.  To live is Christ.

 

In 2 Cor 5:15 he says  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him.

This is the standard he is living by.  This is how he defines his life.  This is the mission statement that wraps parameters and boundaries around not only the big picture but also day to day.  Paul is saying that everything he has tried to be, everything he is, and everything he looked forward to being pointed to Christ. To live is Christ.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The other week I had a dream I knew was from God.  Last night I shared about it with my youth at HKC as they were main characters in it.

In my dream a whole bunch of us were in a massive hotel.  It had many floors and elevators and stairs.  We were in a room with huge glass windows and glass French doors that showed us the rest of the hotel.  It had a library and big tv and comfy sofas.  While we were hanging out the hotel hallways started to fill with people.  Some were faces I knew and some were strangers.  Then there was a noise.  We looked out the windows to the outside and into the hallways and the hotel was been taken over by daleks.

The Daleks were going round saying EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE and zapping people.  We moved the couches and shelves over the doors and barricaded ourselves in the big safe room.  But we realized that the people in the halls were in danger and at opportune moments we would pull the couches back and then rush into the halls warning people and getting them to come into the big safe room with us.  In the big room they could read and rest or watch a movie.  More and more people joined us and then more and more people were going into the hallways and up the stairs and rescuing people.

RESCUED PEOPLE RESCUE PEOPLE

 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,[e] so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Cor 5:19-21

Being a rescuer starts from the inside out.  It starts with making rescuing a priority.  It starts with aligning our heart and goals and identity with His heart, His goals and His identity.

It starts with knowing that our mission is to know God and make Him known, that “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” Luke 19:10.  Like really knowing.

Read the rest of this entry »

This song is a call to more, a call to give it all, a call to know God and make Him known…

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Worship Wednesday

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