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Do You Need Hope for Your Family?

Written By Judah Koh, Singapore

I have been a Christian for 11 years, and was the first in my family to come to Christ. By God’s grace, my mom and sister came to know the Lord a year after me. About a year ago, my brother also came to the Lord thanks to the efforts and prayers of his colleagues. Christ’s redemption of my family has been miraculous.

However, there was still my dad. I grew up fearing my dad because my mom would tell me ugly and nasty things about him. Shouting, yelling, and swearing were common in our home, and at one point, my dad even handed me a butcher knife and challenged me to a fight during one particularly heated argument. To me, he was a bad-tempered man who was distant and possibly violent. Though I eventually outgrew my fear of him, the fear had already wiped out any love that ought to have existed between father and son.

But then, around five years ago, on a day just like any other, I noticed that my father had become old. Not just old, he had become frail. He had become silent (he no longer swore the way he did when I was little). He had become mild. And he had become isolated.

Though we all lived in the same house, no one really bothered connecting with him. He cut a forlorn figure, and I felt like God deposited within me an ache—an ache that began with sympathy, then grew into love and forgiveness, and eventually became a desire for the salvation of his soul.

In our culture, many things are often unspoken. But somehow, my relationship with my father began to take a turn for the better. We almost never quarreled again, but became more cordial in our interactions. As our relationship healed, more and more I wanted to share my faith in God with him.

It proved to be a long journey. At one point, an overseas friend joined us for a visit, and we started talking about our faith. The conversation quickly turned on its heat, and I suddenly realized that we were being too forceful in trying to convince my dad. I had to halt the conversation before it escalated into a full-blown fight. While I desired my father’s salvation, I realized that I could not push things by my own strength (Ephesians 2:8-9).

2018 was my last year receiving red packets as a single at Chinese New Year. My dad and I, together with my fiancée, went for our regular New Year’s visits. My dad, being a proud traditional Chinese man, was eager to share about his son’s wedding—a church wedding, that is.

It was interesting witnessing a non-believer’s explanation and understanding of a church wedding. As the conversation continued, I heard my dad utter words like “Jehovah” and the “10 Commandments.” Turns out, he had been to church in his youth, albeit only during Christmas for the goodies and food. He was never challenged to make a decision, but somehow, God deposited that knowledge in him such that more than half a century later, my dad could remember details from the sharing.

As the first believer in the family, I had felt responsible for bringing the good news to my family. But it was humbling to be reminded that God loved my dad more than I could, and He had plans to reach my dad long before I was even born. God was in charge of my dad’s salvation. My role was to trust and pray and remain faithful (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Not that it was smooth sailing thereafter. Shortly after I was married, my wife and I discussed bringing my dad to her home church. It was a bilingual service, and there were quite a few people close to him in age there. My dad came with less resistance than usual, and things in general were uneventful and calm. This was the first time we had managed to bring him to church, and I was hoping that my dad would show more interest or maybe even become a believer. I was left disappointed that day, but my wife told me to take heart, for God was softening my dad’s heart.

Earlier this year, a large multi-church, cross-denominational evangelistic meeting was held in our city, and my wife and I decided to invite my dad for it. My dad was 71 years old, and the urgency for the gospel to be preached and understood was clear. We asked, and after some to-and-fro, he agreed to come. We heard testimonies aplenty, and a timely message about truth and principles; my dad sat through the entire event, occasionally commenting on the wrong use or mispronunciation of words. But, he listened to what he needed to hear. When the time came for a decision to be made, my wife and I took the opportunity to sandwich him.

He claimed to have understood, and claimed that sooner or later he would believe because his entire family already had. Yet, he expressed some concerns which I felt could be better worked through in his eventual discipleship journey. After all, we all have personal issues that God continues to help us overcome. My dad agreed to take a step forward, and we accompanied him to answer the altar call.

I was so moved and excited, thinking that he had finally believed, only to later find out that in his conversation with the minister he had yet to believe. It felt like a defeat at first, but I came to see it as a victory, in that he was prayed for and was willing to consider finding out more about this “western faith.” The minister passed him a copy of the New Testament, and we knew that salvation was near.

In the following weeks, my dad went to my wife’s home church on his own accord to meet up with my father-in-law, which was another breakthrough. My dad has probably only been to church six or seven times (apart from those Christmas events in his youth), and five times in the past month alone.

I was eager to hear from my father-in-law what had transpired. My father-in-law shared that my dad teared up a few times during the visit, and was moved by what my wife and I had shared about our heart for him to come to faith.

Finally, on June 30, when my wife and I were at a leaders’ retreat at church, we received a video clip from my father-in-law of my dad praying and professing his faith in Jesus Christ.

God works. God loves. God completes.

 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Follow The True Shepherd’s Voice

Just as the sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow only Him, will we also choose to hear the voice of Jesus and follow Him?

Am I Responsible for My Friend’s Salvation?

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

I remember the moment l entered a relationship with Jesus as though it were yesterday.

It happened 10 years ago, on a chilly January evening. My friend Hannah led me in prayer and confession while we were seated in her car, parked outside a supermarket. In a declaration of faith, l accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

The change was immediate: l felt clean and light, as if all my past mistakes and bad decisions had been erased. More importantly, l felt loved and accepted for who l was, despite my failures and flaws; a love which could only have come from God.

As the months went by, l embraced the chance to start my life afresh with God, with fervent gratitude and a heart that burned to know my Savior more and more. Hannah became one of my mentors, and she taught me about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)—how God calls us to spread the good news of the Bible.

My thoughts went immediately to my closest friends who didn’t know Jesus. I realized that the struggles and pain my friends experienced were often a reflection of their search for purpose in life, for identity. This broke my heart.

l wanted to help my friends know the same freedom, peace, and love from a merciful Father that l did. Additionally, l was concerned about the possibility of my friends’ eternal separation from God if they did not enter a relationship with Him. Therefore, l made up my mind to “help” my friends along the path to salvation, which led to an awkward incident between them and myself.

It happened one fateful weekend when my friends and l were visiting Amsterdam. On Saturday night, a few members of our group wanted to visit the red light district, where tourists flock in droves to look at sex workers behind red-lit glass doors. This did not sit well with me. While my friends thought that the experience would be a harmless act of cheeky window-watching, I thought of the desperate circumstances that pushed these women to such a place. l felt for them.

I told my friends that God intended our bodies to be holy and acceptable to Him (Romans 12:1), and that as a Christian, l would not pursue the things of this world. Instead, l would pursue God and so should they. Well, as we British say, that went down like a lead balloon. Some of my friends told me straight out that it wasn’t my place to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do, and most of all, what they should believe.

I wanted my friends to know the love of Jesus, but that setback helped me see that l wasn’t responsible for their salvation—they were. God desires each of us to willingly choose a relationship with Him, and I could not force anyone to a choice—whether through shame or other methods. However, l do have an obligation to share the Gospel. Since that awkward incident, l have been learning to minister to my friends in different ways, in the hopes that it would draw them to the light of Christ.

Here are four ways that I’ve learned to reach out to my non-Christian friends:

 

1. Let Our Faith Shine Through Our Lives

l can be a good spokesperson for Christ when my friends see the way l live my life as a Christian. I love the words of Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

One big change that happened after I became a Christian was that I no longer used swear words. Not only did my friends notice this change, but now they actually apologize to me if they accidentally swear in my presence!

Instead of speaking negatively, l now try to use my words to encourage and uplift those around me (1 Thessalonians 5:11). I try to show my friends God’s love by being patient, kind and empathetic with them, just as Jesus is with us.

 

2. Share Testimonies

God is constantly working in our lives, and we get to share it with our friends. When my husband and l were struggling financially, God came through and provided us with income from sources such as friends, an unexpected payment in our account, and even a scholarship for my husband! Not only do my friends get to witness how God has changed my life around, but they also get to learn more about God through what occurs in my life.

I have noticed that my friends are more receptive to hearing about God when they can see a tangible working of His role as a living God and loving Father. Some of my friends have even started attributing good things in their lives to God’s blessings, instead of the result of their hard work or simply luck or fate.

 

3. Create A Safe Space of Mutual Respect

My friends and l have created a safe space in our relationship, where we mutually respect one another, and each person is free to be themselves. We accept each other’s weaknesses and forgive each other when we make mistakes.

I do talk about God with my friends, but l now use discernment and weigh each situation carefully before sharing my opinions, instead of bombarding them with verses from the Bible.

Because of our safe space, my friends feel comfortable in approaching me when they do have questions about God, because they know l will neither judge them nor be sanctimonious towards them.

 

4. Pray for Our Friends’ Salvation

Have you seen the movie War Room? The elderly woman in the movie had a special closet—which she calls her “war room”—set aside for regular, passionate, dedicated prayer on behalf of people around her.

I pray for my friends’ salvation a lot. l have written down a list of people l hope will one day come into a relationship with Christ, and hung this list up in my spare room—my own “war room.” During my quiet time with God, l pray over this list and intercede for my friends and loved ones.

 

My friends may one day choose Christ, or they may not. Either way, l will continue to be friends with them and love them with the love that Christ has shown me.

Having said that, l will not give up hope that, one day, my friends will accept Jesus into their hearts. Until that day comes, l will continue to have faith, believe in God’s mercy, and pray.

I Don’t Have A Life-Changing Testimony, And That’s OK

Written By Jean, Malaysia, Originally In Simplified Chinese

I was born into a Christian family. Since I was young, I have been attending weekly Sunday School classes, Sunday services and even family cell groups.

Growing up in church, I often heard stories of people’s extraordinary encounters with God. Some were healed from their sicknesses. Some heard God’s voice when they were invited to church one day. Some were filled with the Holy Spirit and after accepting Christ, their lives were completely transformed.

Such testimonies amazed me. I came to believe that if I, too, had such a powerful testimony, I could definitely bring more people to Christ.

Even though I fully believed that Jesus died for my sins and resurrected after three days,  I was once told that the mark of someone who is saved is a life-changing testimony. After some time, I started to believe that only believers with such compelling testimonies were true Christians. And this bothered me greatly because I didn’t have a dramatic testimony. Was I truly saved?

While wrestling with this question, I continued serving actively in church, reading the Bible, and praying daily. During this period, God faithfully ministered to me through sermons, His Word, and the people around me. In spite of these, I still struggled with my salvation.

In pursuit of a “perfect” testimony, I decided to deliberately attempt to stray from God. I stopped reading the Bible and praying. I also tried to serve less in church. I thought that having such experiences would give me a great story to share about how I had “turned away” from God and then turned back to Him again.

However, my heart was not at peace even as I went through with my plan. I was afraid to pray even though I wanted to. Then one day, I decided that it was time to “repent”, and I began to read the Bible and pray again.

Deep within, I felt quite pleased that I finally had a seemingly “perfect” testimony. However, whenever I thought about sharing this “testimony”, my heart would not be at peace—because I knew that I had fabricated it. Whenever I shared my “testimony”, I would always feel guilty.

I finally realized how foolish I had been when I was 16 years old and read an article that a friend had shared on Facebook, which was written for those who had grown up in Christian families.

It started with a story of a girl who was frustrated at not having a seemingly “perfect” testimony. She asked her mother if maybe she had not been “wayward enough,” and so God had not given her such a testimony? This grabbed my attention. Wasn’t this girl just like me?

I reflected on the article, and it reminded me that God gives all of us different stories. Even though I don’t have a dramatic testimony, I still have stories of my personal encounters with God in my daily life. For example, God has always been faithful in answering my prayers, whether I am praying over exams or friendships. Sharing these little stories with my family in Christ has often been encouraging for them.

And while I do not have any exciting stories to share with non-believers, I can still find many opportunities to share about God and how He’s worked in my life. Friends in school might ask me why I am not worried about exams, for example, and then I would have an opportunity to share about how God is with me in everything. I don’t have to envy the testimonies of others because God will use different stories to draw different people to Him.

Most importantly, the greatest story—the story of how Jesus came down to earth to redeem all men and draw us to God—has already been written, and all of us get to participate in that story.

I slowly came to the realization that I did not need a dramatic testimony to be saved. I was already saved when I acknowledged Christ as my God and believed in Him with my heart (Romans 10:9).

I felt ashamed of my ignorance. However, I was thankful for this experience as it reminded me that our Christian life is not just dependent on dramatic testimonies. What matters most is that I work on building my relationship with God, by spending time with Him daily, sharing my thoughts and feelings with Him, and asking for His guidance in life.

We don’t have to worry about having the “perfect” testimony, or envy others for their testimonies. Such envy is futile! The important thing is that we fight the good fight, run our race, and stand firm in our beliefs (2 Timothy 4:7).