You Did It Unto Me…

The Bible compares the global church to a single human body, with many distinct parts that are each important to the whole. When one part of that body suffers, Paul writes, every part suffers with it.

The horrific reality is that many of our brothers and sisters around the globe today are suffering as they are persecuted for the name of Jesus. At the hands of governments hostile to the Christian faith and, increasingly, non-state terrorists, Christ-followers have been martyred. In fact, Open Doors USA’s analysis suggests that 2015 may have been the most violent year for Christians in modern history.

To stand in solidarity with the persecuted church, we ought to do all we can to stop these horrific situations of persecution. Whenever possible, we should strive and pray for circumstances such that Christians would not be forced to leave. When they make the decision that fleeing is their only option, though, local churches in receiving countries also must do everything possible to welcome these refugees.

About 340,000 professing Christians of one tradition or another have been admitted into the United States as refugees between 2003 and 2015, more than of any other religious tradition. Many of them have been persecuted particularly because of their faith in Jesus.

Imagine that you were forced to flee your country because you insisted on following Jesus. Wouldn’t you hope that a Christian brother or sister in the country to which you fled would be there to welcome you, to help you adjust, and to lament with you what you had lost?

In the end, this is not just about standing with our brothers and sisters. It is about standing with Jesus Himself. Jesus takes personally the persecution of His church. When He confronted Saul, who had persecuted Christians, on the road to Damascus, He asked him, “Why do you persecute me?” He explained to His disciples that, at the final judgment, those who had fed, clothed, and welcomed “the least of these” brothers and sisters will learn they had done so to Jesus Himself.

Reflection Questions:

1. Imagine that you were forced to flee your country because of your Christian faith—where would you go? What would you take with you? How would you hope to be received in the country in which you sought refuge?

2. What practical steps could you take to serve refugees who are persecuted for their faith?

Go and Make Disciples…

Shortly before ascending into heaven, Jesus left His disciples with a final charge: to make disciples of all nations. As recorded in the book of Acts, Jesus clarifies that this command has both local and global implications: while the church can and must cross international borders, we also must live out the Great Commission in our own neighborhoods. The arrival of refugees into our communities presents a remarkable opportunity to live out the Great Commission.

That opportunity is not an accident: Scripture makes clear that God is sovereign over the moment of people towards an end: so that people whom He created and loves would find their way into relationship with Him. God has a sovereign purpose in the migration of people, and He invites His church to join Him in that work.

God is at work in multiple directions through the migration of refugees and other immigrants. On one hand, many of those who migrate are already strong believers, and they became powerful agents of mission, sharing the good news with those in their own ethnic communities and beyond.

Others, though, are not yet Christians. In fact, by one analysis, there are more unreached people groups present within the boundaries of the United States than in any other country besides India and China—and many of those individuals arrive as refugees. As we love, serve, and advocate with these refugees, we will often be asked what motivates us, and we can point people to the hope within us that comes from a transformative relationship with Jesus.

This opportunity underscores why it is so important to examine the realities of refugees and migration through a biblical lens. A recent survey from LifeWay Research suggests that most American evangelical Christians are missing this opportunity: only a minority said that the arrival of refugees or other immigrants presents “an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus Christ.”

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers few: there are many who do not yet know Jesus right within our communities, but too few of their neighbors ready to live out Jesus’ Great Commission locally.

Reflection Questions:

1. When you think about the arrival of refugees, have you seen an opportunity? Why or why not?

2. How could you extend welcome and kindness to refugees in such a way that might open opportunities to share your faith?

Finding God Part Thirteen

Here are some other steps you can take in your new relationship with God:

* Be in community with others following Jesus. The difficulties of living as a Christian in a sinful world are many. It is essential that you seek other sincere, Bible-believing Christians to help you sustain your resolve. Both individual Christian friends and a solid, Bible-based Christian church are essential. God will continue working in your life through the lives of other believers.

* Tell someone else. Take a stand for Jesus Christ; make your life count. Someone you know needs to hear this good news about eternal life through Jesus. Tell them.

* Trust God for every detail of your life. He is never done loving us and guiding us.

Click ahead to the next day for more Bible passages that will help you understand what God wants for you. Welcome to your permanent, new life in Christ!

Finding God Part Nine

Will you turn your life over to your Creator?
Will you believe Jesus Christ is that one Person, that one relationship, you need?
Will you admit you need him and confess your wrongdoing?

Here’s how you can turn to God:
1. Admit your spiritual need. Admit you are a sinner.
2. Believe Jesus died for YOU on the cross.
3. Receive him into your life by trusting him to forgive you forever.
4. Repent, and be willing to turn from your sin.

Here is a sample of what you might say to God:
“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I was made for you, but I’ve been living for me. I want to begin a relationship with you now. I believe that you died in my place, to pay the penalty for my sin, and rose again for my salvation. I need your forgiveness. I now invite you to come into my life as my Lord and Savior.”

Share – How to spread the Good News

One of the first steps we all should take as followers of Jesus is to be baptized. This is how we follow Jesus’ example of being baptized and how we publicly proclaim that we are followers of Him. It is an illustration of how we identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This does not save us as no works of our own can do that. Being baptized is an important symbol of what has happened to our lives and hearts as someone that has trusted Jesus.

We are called by Jesus to share the Good News and make disciples of others. It is not a suggestion or an option but a command. We know this sounds scary and it is hard to think about how to talk about God with those that may not know or believe in Him. Therefore, start with some basics.

We must live our life genuinely in service to God so we are not seen as hypocrites. Start praying for those you want to share with and that you believe don’t know Jesus. Keep in mind that you are not asked to save anyone but rather share the Gospel. Only the Holy Spirit can open eyes and hearts to God’s truth.

When you get that opportunity to bring this up, don’t be afraid. God is with you and wants to help. Don’t feel like you need to know the answer to every question. Focus on sharing your story and the difference God has made in your life. Use simple words in explaining how we are all sinners and in need of forgiveness.

Use “we” and “us” to let them know you are no different and just blessed enough to have heard the Good News and accepted Jesus. Don’t expect results immediately. Be faithful and let God use you in the amazing process of Him revealing himself to others. Finally, you have no idea how long God has been working on you, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a while with others.

Worship – How we are created to praise God

Going to church does not save us, but we are called by God to gather together. The temptation for many is to use the resources that are found online or elsewhere, and meet with other believers, but skip the idea of going to church. Church is where true worship as a community of believers occurs. It is where ministry can happen in a way different than any individual or small group can deliver.

As we grow closer to Jesus Christ, we should develop a desire to worship God, receive His Word, and fellowship with other believers. In fact, it is not just a nice suggestion but something the Bible tells us is God’s will for us.

We encourage you to find a good Bible-teaching church. Review their statement of faith and visit to experience what they are about. Ask about membership requirements and baptism to understand their beliefs and how they view God’s word. Don’t think of it as who can offer the best coffee or coolest music. There is nothing wrong with those things, but they are not the point. Look for a place where you can become part of a community that will help you grow closer to God and worship him well.

Connecting – Understanding the importance of community

God did not design you to live alone. We are all created for community. We are stronger when we are living with others and not trying to do life alone. This is especially true as a new believer. You need other believers around you to encourage, teach, pray and worship with you. Your decision to follow Jesus is an awesome event in your life. Think about who you know that is a follower of Jesus and share this with them. Ask if you could talk with them more about their faith journey.

The Bible’s original Greek word for church is translated as gathering or assembly. The idea being that followers of Jesus would gather to live in fellowship with one another. They would be united by Jesus, study God’s word, love one another, encourage each other through difficult times, help each other grow closer to Jesus and live as a Christian family.

Another aspect to community is the concept of serving the “body of Christ.” The idea is that each follower of Jesus is part of the universal body and we each serve a different purpose that together makes us whole. We are called to care for one another and recognize that if one suffers we are all hurting.

We should think about how to use our time, our talents and our treasure to serve God. You have a role on this community of believers and you need to spend time thinking what it may be. This coming together and serving the greater good is how we flourish and serve God well.