“The Lord has done great things for us…” – Psalm 126:3 (ESV).
That’s the key reflection which comes to mind when considering the fact we marked our five-year anniversary and 20th issue in December 2022.
And, it absolutely rings true for us on our Authentic journey to date.
He has opened doors in His strength, paving a path step by step as we trust Him. It’s one we could have never walked in our own strength.
I chose five people we’ve connected with in the past five years since December 2017 – be they either feature interviews or long-standing contributors – to chat with again to hear how the Lord is at work.
Ray Comfort, Living Waters Founder and CEO, Los Angeles, California, Issue 1 Feature, December 2017
You were in our very first issue back in 2017 – what do you think about the fact we’ve reached our 20th issue – and five year anniversary?
It was a privilege to be interviewed! A double-honour really. I’m more of a Kiwi living in the United States than I ever was in New Zealand. Every night, we watch the news to find out what’s going on back home. Though we’ve been living in the United States for more than 30 years, New Zealand is still very special.
Credit to the team. It’s not difficult to start a Christian magazine, but it takes something special to reach the 20th issue. Anyone can launch a boat, it’s another thing to keep it afloat in a storm.
Jeremiah 2:13 tells us many have “…dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water…” (NIV). Tell me about the heart behind Living Waters and your desire to point people to Jesus?
The name itself is interesting. Back in 1974, a well-known itinerant minister – Marcus Arden – and I became friends. He asked if I’d like to take over a paper called Living Waters. He’d laid out the first issue, but hadn’t printed any. Our ministry automatically became known as Living Waters as we made gospel tracts available through that paper.
Since I became a Christian on April 25, 1972, I don’t think I’ve gone an hour without being overwhelmed by the thought that those who die in sin are headed for Hell. If there was no such place, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. I’d have probably moved to Queensland and been a long-haired, tanned surfer on a longboard.
I look back on 50 years of ministry thankful that – in Christ – I haven’t wasted a moment. In all sincerity, I’ve followed in Jesus’ footsteps with every ounce of energy to “…seek and save that which is lost.” That should be normal for every Christian. It’s certainly the focus of Living Waters. And, I’m also surrounded by an amazing team who – ultimately – want to see the unsaved come to know the truth. We’re in a lifeboat surrounded by drowning people. How could anything but their being saved be our priority?
Our culture is incredibly ‘noisy’. Many ‘voices’ purport to be ‘truth’. What’s your encouragement to hold solely to Godly truth?
It’s good to be informed about what’s going on in the world, yet careful not to let it soak into your soul. We should be both salt and light. Many Christians try to influence the world without the light of the gospel. Yet, if we aim to bring change simply by ‘outlawing’ things without boldly proclaiming the gospel, the cart is before the horse.
Many who don’t know Jesus love darkness with a passion. It’s the gospel which transforms – and by upholding it – we help get the ‘horse’ in the right place. Loving righteousness not sin means we no longer serve sin. That’s the Biblical way to end ‘darkness’ in our world.
Knowing and focussing on our agenda is key. It’s not to produce a harmonious society, but to share with those who don’t know Jesus the reason He died. Not to improve lives, but to save them from death. That should be a worldview we maintain by meditating on God‘s Word daily.
I once asked a crowd at a church how many read the Bible daily, without fail. I honestly thought it was something every Christian did. The answer was about five percent. I was shocked. In my journey, I’ve read the Bible every day for more than 50 years because it’s my priority. There’s no intention to ‘boast’ here, but many Christians don’t. When I ask why, the response is regularly “I try to.” I ask, “Do you try to eat food every day?” Of course not. They eat every day because they prioritise eating.
A wise man once said our testimony should be, “…no Bible, no breakfast, no read, no feed.”
Fear of man is one reason people often cite as a deterrent for sharing the gospel. What do you say in response? As someone who regularly faces scrutiny, how do you keep your eyes on Jesus?
The fear of man certainly is a snare. But, the fear of God is the number one antidote. Evangelism is a moral obligation. Like doctors who’ve found a cure, “…we cannot but speak the things we’ve seen and heard,” – Acts 4:20 (KJV).
I battle fear. Every time I share the gospel, I face a taunting ‘Goliath’. But, Goliath is reduced to Zacchaeus when I remember sinners are heading for Hell. And that – perhaps today as I share – God will use me to reach them.
A firefighter who finds himself at the base of a burning building, with a woman and children crying out on the fifth floor, knows the flames are engulfing. He forces himself to climb a massive ladder. Would he rather be home with his family? Sure. What he’s about to do is terrifying. Yet, he’s not thinking of his fears, but of that poor woman and her children.
So should we deal with our fears. We’re fearful of not being able to answer questions, of rejection or of approaching strangers. But, they’re minor concerns compared to the fate of the ungodly. Jude says, “…on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” – Jude 22-23 (NKJV).
Note the motivation – ‘compassion’ – which evangelism is another word for. If we don’t love people, we won’t evangelise. That’s the root cause of failure to overcome our fears. Charles Spurgeon said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself…” Harsh words, yet so needed in the contemporary Church.
Cultural ‘noise’ would often like Christian voices to be quiet. What has walking with Jesus taught you about authentically and boldly sharing our faith?
Perhaps most important, as Christians, is that we’re careful of our tone. People can tell if we’re authentic by the depth of our earnestness. Years ago, I had a drug prevention centre in the Regent Theatre building in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square. One day, I received an early-morning phone call from a friend, “Ray! The Regent Theatre is on fire!” I believed him the very second he spoke. Why? Because of his tone.
When we plead with the ungodly, reasoning with them about sin, righteousness and judgement, we should see them react as Felix did to the Apostle Paul.
“…that’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” – Acts 24:25 (NIV).
One of the best suggestions when approaching a stranger is to non-threateningly ask, “Do you think there’s an afterlife?” I do so in almost every video on our YouTube channel – which now has more than 200 million views. It’s a wonderful way to reach the lost and an effective way to equip Christians to share. If you’d like to, watch our channel for tips on how to witness, and for tapping into the longing the lost have for the life that is in Jesus alone. The problem isn’t the world’s antagonism, but perhaps our unbiblical gospel presentation. We’ve found everlasting life! If they only knew what we have in Christ, they’d ask us for it! See John 4:10.
It’s been said you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Not true. Simply salt his oats. So,‘salt the oats’ for the ungodly, so they thirst for righteousness. You can view a free teaching called ‘Hell’s Best Kept Secret’ on https://livingwaters.com, or our Down-under agency is https://livingwatersdownunder.com/
Finally, please pray for our ‘Operation London’ initiative – (link coming). It’s an exciting outreach with the potential to reach millions with the gospel.
For more, see https://livingwaters.com
Nathan Johnson – Ellerslie Mission Society, Windsor, Colorado – Contributor since Issue 1, December 2017
Tell me about Ellerslie. It must stir your heart to see lives eternally changed?
Ellerslie is a short-term discipleship training program equipping Christians to practically experience – and live out – the Gospel. It’s sad to see a modern Church which may esteem scripture, but doesn’t live it out. Our heart is to train up believers who don’t just know God’s Word, but who also share it with the world. I have an odd assortment of roles, including overseeing our main discipleship program and teaching alongside Eric and Leslie Ludy. But, I also do a lot of administrative activities and preach and serve. Yes, it’s deeply stirring to see people discover the centrality of Jesus Christ and make Him the focus of their lives. It’s an incredible testimony of the gospel and the power of God to see people set free from addictions and sin, to give themselves fully to Jesus Christ, walking in His victory.
You’ve had articles in Authentic since issue one. What’s it like to consider what God’s done in His faithfulness through the Authentic journey?
It’s been a tremendous blessing and joy to be part of Authentic – even though I live 12,000 kilometres away! I deeply love the passion and focus Authentic has in sharing the truth of Jesus. I’m continually stirred when I hear how God has used the ministry and magazine to impact and change lives for the Kingdom. Five years is a grand testimony to the goodness and glory of God. He started, has sustained and will continue to use Authentic. Paul’s statement in Romans 11:36 is true to how Authentic has been “…from Him, through Him, and to Him for His glory.” What a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness.
How valuable is the role of Christ-centred publications such as Authentic whose heart it is to lead people to Jesus?
We live in a day in which lots of Christian publishing is “tickling ears”. Paul warned as such in 2 Timothy 4:3. It’s sad when the Church is in a weak, passive state – submitting to culture, not standing for truth. Sadly, it’s rare to find a Christian publication that’s truly Christ-centred. Authentic has been a breath of fresh air in declaring truth with love, making Christ the centre and focus of everything. Only Jesus can save and transform lives, so, why would we want ‘self-help’ encouragements which merely tickle our ears, rather than bold gospel truth that transforms lives? I’m thankful Authentic has stayed true to the course of providing resources which invite men to make Jesus Christ first in their lives. The world is getting darker, we need publications like Authentic which stand as a light.
Here’s a bit of a selfish one. I know you’ve visited New Zealand – what was your highlight from being here?
Words cannot express how much I love New Zealand! I visited a few years ago, ministering alongside Dave Firth. I loved every minute. The landscape is breathtaking – it’s like God took extra care when creating New Zealand. My favourite highlight was the people. There’s something extra special about the people in New Zealand – I was blessed to spend time with them.
You run a website called Deeper Christian – with a desire that it’s a place where intentional Christians seeking to grow in their walk with Jesus can experience and discover a deep love for God and His Word. What would you say to readers as an encouragement to simply seek – and trust – Jesus above all else?
It’s often easy to say how much we want and need Jesus – to seek and trust Him. But then we don’t do so practically. I’ve found that myself far too many times. That’s often because we put Jesus in a corner, rather than having His life as the focus of our own. We may spend time in Bible reading or prayer, but we go about our day and wait until bedtime to interact with Him.
Yet, the Psalmist says we are to ponder, delight and reflect upon God’s Word all throughout the day and night. If we want to make Christ first in our lives and build our lives around Him, He must be at the centre all throughout. Not just for a few minutes in the morning. Invite Jesus into life’s everyday moments – talk to Him about what’s going on. Continually turn your heart and mind toward Christ – you’ll find you get to know Him more and it’s far easier to trust Him.
For more, see https://deeperchristian.com
Graham Burt – Festival One Executive Director – Issue Nine Feature, December 2019
What’s it like to consider all that God has done in leading and guiding the Festival One team since we last spoke?
What a question! We constantly talk about Festival One not being ours, but God’s. So many quite miraculous things happened to get us to where we are. We talk of the need to remember those, rather than the difficulties and disruptions. Exodus is a stunning reminder. God guides and leads. His timing, not ours. There are obstacles – perhaps to our eyes – but He’s leading perfectly.
It’s our five year anniversary and our 20th issue?! How cool to think about all the doors God has opened for us here at Authentic…
Amazing! Thinking of all the weirdo’s you’ve had on the cover – present company included! Seriously though – what a blessing to have solid, thoughtful Christian content delivered so well. Keep it cranking. God is good.
What stirs in you as you consider what God has ahead for Festival?
Man, simply the privilege of hosting a part of God’s family in this way. The privilege of being able to bring together so many different churches, denominations and people at different stages of their pilgrimage towards God. It’s delightful seeing God’s people together. It’s an honour to provide opportunities for so many unstructured moments in which people meet each other and their Heavenly Father in deeper and Holy-Spirit inspired ways. The privilege of hosting an event centred around our Saviour, Jesus Christ, is never lost on us. That’s truly what motivates us for the years ahead. And, with such a beautiful new site, we’re working hard towards seeing a deepening connection between God, His creation, and His people. God bless Authentic for five solid years!
For more, see https://www.festival.one
Luke Collis – UNASHAMED – Issue 13 Feature – March 2021
What’s been happening at UNASHAMED since we last chatted?
It’s so clear as my wife Jess and I look over the years before UNASHAMED that God was preparing us for this. We’re told in Ephesians 2:10 that we were “…created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV). Man we’ve seen that!
Jesus never said living for Him would be comfortable – it’s definitely stretched Jess and I – and it’s come with significant sacrifice. As a family, we’ve had to trust God for things like finance and obey Him when others thought we were crazy! Believe it or not, especially in the early days, we even faced opposition – not even from outside the Church, but within! Not to mention the spiritual opposition. Yet, these experiences only served to cement the dream in our hearts. There have been many late nights and early mornings, long trips away from family and faith steps! It’s required big faith too – choosing not to give up and continually seeking God. Then, when you see even just one teenager encountering Jesus and finding freedom, for His glory, it’s all worth it.
Can you believe that here at Authentic we’re approaching our five year anniversary and our 20th issue?!
Totally! It just starts with faithfulness, right? As we seek God and walk in obedience to His call, He’ll use us! Boy, is He using Authentic! You guys have interviewed some legends, and those stories are having an impact. These magazines are montages and records of God’s power at work in people’s lives here in New Zealand! Awesome!
What has God laid on your heart – when you look to the future and consider UNASHAMED?
The needs of Aotearoa’s young people grow by the day. The enemy’s having a field day and it’s getting desperate, Jeremy. Our young people – and our whole nation – need Him. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus came that they may have life.
I sense we’re on the verge of a huge harvest! As people’s foundations are shaking, they’re asking the hard questions. I’ve seen hunger developing. “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.” – Matthew 9:36-38 (ESV).
At UNASHAMED, we’re in a time of positioning and preparation for the coming harvest. Those who do the reaping have to be ready, so we’re seeking passionate believers, helping raise them up. We’re also working on new initiatives we sense God’s hand in in order to reach young people in a whole new way. We’re really excited. The dream is as clear as ever, “…every young person in Aotearoa reached with the message of Jesus.”
How then would you encourage readers when it comes to reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Sometimes I think we overcomplicate it. Firstly, fall in love with Jesus! In Acts we read about two disciples who’d just seen a lame man healed. We’re told, “…when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13 (ESV).
Secondly, spend time with those who don’t know Him. Too often we perhaps get confined to our ‘Christian church bubble’, hardly even rubbing shoulders with anyone who doesn’t yet know Him. Jesus spent time with the broken, the sick and the hurting. He wasn’t afraid of dark places or hanging out with the outcasts of society. Imitate Jesus. As you pursue Him, you’ll catch His heart beat for the lost and grow to be sensitive to His leading. Spend time with those who don’t know Him, His message will flow out of your mouth!
For more, see www.unashamed.nz
Pat Buckley – Amped4Life Founder and Educator – Issue 15 Feature, September 2021
“My heart is to impact even one life each day, for good – and for God.”
It’s a calling Pat Buckley lives and walks in primarily because one key reflection anchors him.
“Every day, I’m reminded of where He’s brought me from. My prayer is, ‘…Lord, never let me forget the grace You show me, lest I treat it like a common thing.”
Since he and I last chatted in September 2021, Pat and the Amped4Life team celebrated a major milestone – its 20th anniversary three months ago.
Pat and his wife Karen and his twin brother Mike and his wife Susan first sat down in June 2002 to reflect on all the experiences, lessons and principles life had taught Pat throughout his journey of recovery.
Amped4Life was subsequently formed as the group “dared to dream” about opportunities to use that pain and brokenness to educate, equip and empower young people with tools and skills they need to make healthy and informed life choices.
With between 80 and 110 speaking engagements in a typical year, Pat estimates he’s spoken to about 500,000 Kiwis – mostly young people – nationwide in the past 20 years.
He speaks at camps, community groups and in both Christian and public high schools – being led by God as to how he does so when speaking in public schools.
“As I reflect, it was a risk, sure, but our whole journey is one of trusting God. If I’d listened to my own fears and – at times – self doubt instead of trusting Him, I’d likely never have stepped out of the boat into what God was calling me to.
“I could’ve chosen to bury all my pain, hurt and brokenness in the basement of my life. But, I chose to harness what God restored in my journey to minister to others who may be walking through similar experiences.”
As Pat considers an encouragement for Aotearoa’s young people, he mentions Isaiah 49:4 – “But I said, “I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” (NIV).
“If it were up to our own strength and ability, Amped4Life wouldn’t be possible. It’s His work, we steward it.
“My encouragement is, while there’s life, there’s hope. No matter how far you feel you’ve fallen from grace, as you read this, there’s a loving God who wants to take, and use, your life. “As you submit to Him, He’ll begin to redeem the broken areas, your hurts and pain and give you true purpose.
“I’ve received amazing feedback from thousands of people, yet it remains true that even if I can point to one life which was impacted through our work – one person who met Jesus and began to walk in relationship with Him and in who He’s called them to be – it’s all worth it.
“For any of us, if we keep focussed on Jesus, and persevere even in tough times, we can know the impact will be eternal.”
– For more, see https://amped4life.net.nz
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About the author
Jeremy Smith is editor of, and one of the writers for, Authentic Magazine.
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