For many, 2020 has been difficult. We need God’s help. I’m struck by the various encouragements of Christmas—mercy, salvation, and hope among them. You probably know these things. I’m saying them as a reminder of the encouragement we have in Christ.
The first Christmas showed God coming to a small nation, oppressed by Rome, that hadn’t been given a biblical prophecy for about 400 years. The people of Israel probably felt down, even hopeless. Various incurable diseases swirled around them, poverty and pain—from within and without— assailed them. They, like many of us, needed help. God didn’t just help, He came close. He wanted to be with them, and still wants to be with all of us now.
Emmanuel is a name of Jesus—God with us. God’s salvation for every need of every heart, for every situation, came close back then. He didn’t just want to save, He wanted to be with them and remain with them. God came to people then, and is still here, still available. If you need His help, may I encourage you to reach out to Him and tell Him you need Him. I can promise you, based on His word, He’s an ever present help in times of trouble.
Keywords: trouble, help, Emmanuel, God with us
Hello, brother or sister MBB. Some advice and a few thoughts to encourage you to keep going:
When you want to know how much God loves you, look mainly to the Bible and ask God to reveal His loving nature to you. If you look only to people in the church, you run the risk of allowing their treatment of you negatively influence your view of God. God is completely good and is fully for you. In the church, you can have both good and bad experiences. While many will treat you well, please remember that those that don’t are, like you, still growing. Keep loving them and forgive them as you’ve been forgiven.
The main thing to focus on is loving God and following Him. While it may seem strange and unfamiliar, you are a member of His family. Your relationship with Him is deeply personal, and He calls you His friend. That is not a distant friend, but one in His innermost circle — all because of Jesus Christ.
About those things that you have suffered and lost, in a strange way those things are a gift. It is very difficult to know Him fully when holding on to our lives to protect them. Persecution and loss, as you well know, causes us to either let go and seek Him or cling even more tightly to our lives. The latter leads to falling away from God — a bad choice. It is much better to keep going, face the pain and seek Him even more. In my life, and in the lives of the many MBBs I have talked with, growth in Him accelerates in the tough times. Amazingly, we all noticed something else — a deep sense of God’s presence and His peace. Peace may not have been there every second, but the best way I can describe it is that we all had a prevailing peace. Keep going — it is so worth it to get to know Him better.
There’s something to be aware of and look for — joy. Joy isn’t ordinary happiness. It is way beyond that. God promises us joy when we are in His presence. Joy is the secure knowledge and contentment that comes from being loved unconditionally by God in Christ. That joy is there even in the midst of suffering, and remains in good times. Keep looking to God, expecting His help and His inexplicable joy.
Keep looking up to where your help comes from. He will help you. He will bring you through, and the enemy cannot defeat you. Even if the enemy kills you through people, you go to heaven. You will be there because you followed the only way to get there — Jesus Christ, our Lord.
It’s strange that the thought of dying can comfort, but it can if I, or you, view it as a good thing. We get to be with God. Death is seen by many to be awful, the worst that can happen. For Christians, even the worst is good (though we are not to seek our own deaths). Knowing that makes even the worst situations easier to deal with. It makes it easier to keep going.
Keywords: MBB, encouragement, persecution, joy, worth it, heaven
Most Christians know the name of the apostles in the Bible. They are given high importance, and rightly so. One of the most important leaders — less well known — was Barnabas. Why was he so critical to the life of the church?
The early church was experiencing great persecution, part of which was spearheaded by Saul of Tarsus. Saul experienced a radical conversion when he encountered the risen Lord Jesus. He was renamed Paul. Paul was certainly not someone that the disciples and apostles wanted to be near, much less work with or listen to, even though God had appointed Him to be an apostle. Barnabas heard him speak, recognized the anointing on him, and risked his own reputation with his friends — and perhaps even all of their lives — by bringing Paul to them with a positive recommendation.
Please note that Barnabas did not wait for Paul to develop a long-term, successful reputation — he acted on with a heart of encouragement and discernment from the Spirit of God. Without Barnabas’ positive recommendation, it is very likely that the church would not have grown as fast nor as vibrantly as it did.
MBBs tend to be skeptical of outsiders, especially concerned that the incoming MBB might be a plant from the religious police (or the equivalent). There is a lack of trust based on skepticism. This skepticism grows from valid concerns, but often blocks fellowship and the growth of the church because of hypervigilance.
In order to grow properly, MBB leaders will need to pray for the ability to discern who is called to lead, then act bring those new leaders into fellowship with positive recommendations, often without waiting for years to ensure that the new person is as anointed as the leader had suspected. Yes, guidance by the Holy Spirit and courage will be needed, but MBB small groups and churches will not grow as God intends in Muslim contexts unless MBB leaders chose to lead with a heart of encouragement.
Keywords: Encouragement, Barnabas, persecution, discernment, choosing leaders, MBB
God loves you. He loves each one of us. Love is in His nature – He is love. He wants the best for us, and wants to have a deep and personal relationship with each one of us.
When God created mankind, He gave intrinsic value to each one of us. He wanted to have a good relationship with each one of us, but our sin prevented that. To overcome the offense of our sin and the gap between His requirements and our behavior, Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins and rose from the dead three days later. Those actions provide those who believe in and followed Jesus Christ as Lord an everlasting and familial relationship with God. They also show that God was willing to pay an infinite amount for each of us. We each have infinite worth.
Christians are members of God‘s family. We do not have a second-class relationship with God, but instead are loved by God the Father the same way that He loves Jesus (John 17). We are fully loved by the One who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and our Creator. God shows His love to each of us in a very personal way. he not only saves us, but also speaks to us, provides for us, guides us, has specific plans for each life, and gives us meaning through relationship with Him and letting us work with Him towards His purposes.
The intrinsic value given to mankind at creation is fully realized in a Christian’s relationship with God. You have it, and do not have to earn it.
Keywords: God loves you, relationship, value, competition, simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ
This passage is not only helpful to MBBs in difficult times, it offers encouragement to Christians from any background in any circumstance.
Romans 8:31-39 WEB (World English Bible)
31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who didn’t spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things? 33 Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[d 37 No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Keywords: MBB discipleship, encouragement, love of God