MBBs need to know that the extent of their obedience and performance, even good works from a pure heart, are not their identity in Christ.
Christians are children of God, and their identity is a gift – given at salvation. What they do is different than who they are. God loves them because they are His. He does invite them to work with Him, but that is not why He loves them.
MBBs, as well as all Christians, should ensure that they are doing the right things for the right reasons. To do so requires hearing the Holy Spirit, knowing God’s character and the new covenant. Learning how to do these three things, as well as many others, is covered in my book, Discipling Muslim Background Believers.
Keywords: MBB discipleship, identity, performance
All Christians experience pain suffered at the hands of others, especially persecuted believers. MBBs tend to experience very high levels of emotional and even physical pain. How can serious pain be best dealt with?
Some would say to ignore the pain and soldier on. The problem with that is the cause of the pain may be preventing a person from living the way that he or she is called to live. It’s better to treat pain like a squeaky wheel – understand the symptom and treating the cause while soldiering on. It’s better to not ignore the pain. Much like putting oil between two metal surfaces rubbing against each other, find healthy ways to treat the pain so the MBB can function properly.
The greater the pain, the likelihood is the the wound, physical or emotional, is more serious. Sometimes serious pain requires professional help and even a support group. In every case, ask God to heal the MBB both physically and emotionally. The emotional healing will usually take time, sometimes many years, but He does heal.
I’ve talked to many MBBs that were disowned and disinherited. Some were even tortured. Surprisingly, the ones tortured said the deepest pain came from family rejection. Emotional pain can be debilitating to a person’s soul, psyche and personal interactions. However, the MBBs that asked God for emotional healing and were willing to get help, even from professionals, fared much better than those that did not.
It is also useful for the MBB to be in fellowship with other Christians that will love and minister to the MBB. Being part of a local small group or church can be a big part of God’s plan to heal a wounded MBB.
Often, when I hurt the most, rather than allow me to devolve into a cycle of endless self-analysis and self-pity, God would provide opportunities for me to serve other people, regardless of whether they were Christian or not. Afterwards, I was often pleasantly surprised to find that though I had been in my darkest hours, reaching out to help other people had very positive benefits for me. The pain usually abated, and sometimes did not come back with the same intensity. I am not talking about giving love to others in order to get help from God – that’s not real love, which seeks to benefit others for their good. I am talking about serving others with no expectation of return. It worked well for me and may be useful to keep in mind.
After dealing with the pain while soldiering on, have the MBB refocus and continue to live out God’s will for his or her life with greater energy and passion.
Keywords: Christian, discipleship, MBB, dealing with pain
While losing focus on Jesus can happen at Christmas time, this post is more about losing focus at the change of spiritual seasons: bad to good; good to bad; difficult to easy; plenty to little; and so on. Christians tend to do better when they keep Jesus as their focus because He is our source of life and joy.
Most Christians know that He is our source, but get distracted. The key to returning to a good focus is not simply following a checklist, nor is it simply trying to think more about Him. Thinking about Him is not bad. It must, however, be done in the context of a relationship that is living and vital.
All Christians are given a doorway into that relationship in Christ. Many then treat following Jesus as something that they do every now and then — usually at church or sometimes during prayer or even regular quiet times.
What God offers us is so much bigger and better. While He is always with us, He wants us to always know and experience His presence.
He calls us friends. We are not slaves, simply there to perform tasks of obedience. Rather, He calls us to an exciting life of serving and loving others with Him. We live and work in a vital, sustaining relationship with Him. He wants us with Him always, and died to prove it. Because He rose, we are members of His family, perfectly and fully loved.
Distracted? Lost focus? Then remember. Remember that you are part of His family, and He calls you sister or brother. He loves you with an everlasting love, calling you friend — the close kind. So close that He takes up residence in you. Ask Him to keep reminding you of His love, presence and friendship. Also ask Him to continue to reveal greater depths of His love an friendship, and how that revelation affects how you live. Do your part — seeking to know His friendship.
When we know we are truly loved for our benefit, we tend to respond lovingly. This response refocuses us, giving us the ability to properly live out our relationship with our Lord and friend, Jesus Christ.
p.s. Knowing you are in or out of focus often takes monitoring your attitudes, thoughts and actions. Regular short times of reflection can be enough, using even the simple question, “Is my priority of my relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being lived out in my attitudes, thoughts and actions?”
Keywords: Christian, discipleship, love, friend of God, re-focus
MBBs face an inordinate amount of disappointment, not the least of which comes from rejection from family, friends and community. The pessimism discount involves discounting what people say, hopes, expectations and faith because of past experience – and not limited to people and things that have let them down.
The result is a sense of constant disappointment because they are believing that bad will happen, and are essentially experiencing the feelings of bad circumstances even if the bad does not happen. This expectation can corrupt relationships, especially with God.
To help MBBs avoid this negative stance, please show them in the Bible who they are in Christ, how much God loves them, and that He has good plans for them. It is likely that they will need reminders over time as they learn how to transform their thinking guided by your teaching and led by the Holy Spirit.
Please note I’m not talking about a lack of wisdom. Some situations and people need to be avoided.
Keywords: Discipeship, MBB, pessimism discount
Christians ministering to MBBs often ask me how MBBs feel when they become Christians. I think one way is to consider and combine two analogies.
The first analogy is someone who suffered a devastating back injury, had surgery yesterday, and must now relearn how to do almost everything. Please think through the pain, much of which cannot be understood by casual observation because the debilitating wounds are mainly internal and the scars are hidden. The injuries force the injured to have to focus intensely on relearning even the simplest tasks, all while dealing with constant, terrible pain.
The second analogy is a person who has moved to a new continent with little or no preparation, doesn’t speak the language and has few or no friends nearby to offer advice or help.
An MBB has to relearn much of what they know about life because they have entered a new kingdom. They must do so while experiencing the terrible pain of rejection and loss, and perhaps even abuse and torture. The people around them may not know how to help, and the MBB may be isolated by their community. The MBB does not know the culture of the new kingdom, and will make many mistakes – often painful ones. MBBs will have umpteen questions, many of which won’t get answered, leaving them frustrated. They might even feel hopeless, thinking that things will always be this way, leading them to leave Christianity.
The above offers a small taste of the life of an MBB.
Keywords: MBB discipleship, two analogies