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  • It’s supposed to hurt

    Rebecca is one our writers at Open Doors – here she shares her experience of taking part in Blackout, our sponsored, digital fast for persecuted Christians. Have a read and get inspired to take part in the upcoming Blackout weekend and give up your phone for a whole 48 hours!

    “It’s supposed to hurt.”

    So said my mum with a smile when I bemoaned the fact that TV was included on the list for Blackout. She’s right. Blackout is supposed to be a challenge; it’s no good asking people to sponsor you for something you could do in your sleep!

    I’ve had periods where I’ve deliberately cut out scrolling through Facebook before, but to be without my phone completely? To be without that seconds-away contact from friends? That was something I’d not done for a long time. And what I noticed the most was how much I noticed its absence.

    “I’ll just Google that – oh.”
    “Let me show you on YouTube – wait.”

    I wish I could say I felt really at peace all weekend without my phone, but I can’t. I spent the weekend agitated, my fingers itching for something I couldn’t have. It was incredibly frustrating!

    “It’s supposed to hurt.”

    Reading the stories of those who are persecuted, and then praying for them – really taking the time to sit down and think about them and pray for them – put things in perspective. And it made me want to bang on the doors of heaven and shout, “This isn’t fair! This isn’t supposed to hurt! Why does this hurt? Why does this hurt children and churches, and brothers and sisters in Christ?”

    What hurts you, hurts me.

    We are one body, united in Christ. When we are disconnected from each other, both physically and spiritually, we become numb to one another’s hurts and joys. But when we do connect – when we really sit and reflect and allow ourselves to feel pain and really pray – that’s when we feel for each other. That’s when we’re able to live out Paul’s words: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. It’s a sensation not unlike pins and needles. Pins and needles tells us that our blood supply has been cut off from a part of our body. It’s so important to keep up the connection, to keep up the supply of prayer.

    My desperation to connect with others again was not fulfilled by my phone.

    When I finally got my hands back on my phone, there was a sense of deflation. Almost like it didn’t live up to my expectations. It didn’t satisfy; it didn’t fill me like I had imagined it would all weekend. My desperation to connect with others again was not fulfilled by my phone. Which hints that this weekend I found myself as part of something much, much bigger.

    I may have been going it alone this time around, but I know that I wasn’t alone in my prayers. When we pray together, no matter where we are, it transforms us into a community, tuning in on the same frequency, tuning in to the same Broadcaster. A God who hears our prayers. No matter where we find ourselves, we are one body, one Church, united in prayer, united in Christ.

    “The church is filled with Christ, and Christ fills everything in every way.”
    Ephesians 1:23

    Get involved in the Blackout

    Spend a weekend in digital silence, praying for persecuted Christians. Sign up at the link below and we’ll send you a free Blackout pack – there’s a bunch of downloads and resources to help you too!

  • Preparing for silence

    I’m not well known among my friends for being quiet. I tried a sponsored silence once – I managed 5 hours before I caved. In the car, I listen to music. When I’m home alone, I talk aloud to myself. I don’t like silence.

    Silence makes me uncomfortable. Silence means I am alone with my thoughts and surroundings. Silence is the opposite of distraction. Silence is deafening.

    I love going to church, and I love spending time with God one-to-one. But when I walk into an empty church, I am overwhelmed by the silence. The enormity of the space, coupled with my footsteps echoing off the walls, leaves me with this profoundly uncomfortable thought: it’s just me and God. There are no barriers to God in an empty church. There are no people, there’s no choir, no organ music, no quiet chatter, no whispered prayers to detract from the very real sense that God is present. And that makes me want to hide away.

    But, the truth is that silence is good for us. It stops us from running away from things we need to confront, it gives us a break from the constant noise of our phones, and most importantly, it opens doors for God to speak to us, and it helps us to stay in a place where we can hear Him.

    God does sometimes shout, but more often, He whispers. And we can’t hear whispers when we’re on Netflix, or we have our headphones in, or when we deliberately place ourselves in busy places.

    God does sometimes shout, but more often, He whispers.

    God drew people up mountains just to get them away from the distractions around them. He drew Moses away from the thousands of grumbling Israelites to give him the Ten Commandments. He whispered to the depressed and despairing prophet Elijah in a cave on Mount Horeb. And He speaks to you and me when we give Him space.

    Whispers connote intimacy. We shout because people are far away from us, whether that’s because of physical distance, or because we feel they are far away from understanding us. We shout to the world on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, about our opinions and who we are, trying to get people to understand. But we whisper when people are close. We whisper when we know people can hear us. And whispers are just between the whisperer and the whisperee. They are intimate.

    God longs to be intimate with us. It seems He spends most of the Old Testament shouting to His people, a people who are deaf to His cries. God’s whispers are for the select few who allow themselves to draw near to Him. And then, Jesus. We know that Jesus spent lots of time preaching to large crowds, but we also read about how often He spent time alone with God, or hanging out with His close group of friends. We see intimacy in the person of Christ.

    However, we can’t avoid the fact that God gave us voices. He gave us voices to praise Him, to communicate with Him, to tell of His good deeds, and to speak up for those who have no voice. Silence prepares us to speak up and speak out. Silence gives us time to gather our thoughts, to think before we speak. God asks us to speak out on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. We cannot keep God to ourselves.

    “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you”
    Acts 18:9-10

    Join the Blackout

    Take part in our sponsored digital silence, Blackout, this coming weekend. Spend a whole weekend offline, away from tech and the distractions of Instagram, Facebook and Netflix in order to raise prayer, money and awareness for those forced to be silent because of their faith.

  • Convicted?

    The word convicted is usually carries a negative meaning. For example, when a person is ‘convicted’ of theft or assault. But, for me, in hearing the stories of those brave enough to lay down their life for their faith in God, I have been convicted about my own faith. Would I be willing to give everything for the Jesus?

    We attend church, we read the bible, we worship God, maybe raising our arms in a song every once and a while, and of course we remember to pray… when we need something. Up until now I had this was enough, that Jesus was satisfied with my own version of Christianity. I mean I did all of these things, plus I served in the worship team at youth group – I thought I had my version of Christianity down pat. Then I heard about the persecuted church.

    Their churches are burned to the ground, they are threatened with beatings, imprisonment and death just because of their beliefs, and yet their faith and trust in God is still strong – much stronger than mine. They are the church, and they are the ones who changed the way I view my faith in God.

    I don’t want to settle for a mediocre version of Christianity.

    I was at a prayer meeting – the theme was our response to persecution? Even the title got me stuck. Did I even have a response to persecution? I’d heard the stories of extremists, the punishments and the cruelty towards Christians in other countries, but I’d never really taken action or had much further thought about the impact I could make.

    When events occur so distant from us it can be hard to imagine them actually unfolding, so it wasn’t until I heard the personal stories of those who had experienced persecution did the realisation hit me that it was real. Not only is it real but it’s still happening every day to thousands of Christians just just like me.

    The story that had the most profound impact on me about a man named Peter in North Africa. He was put in jail for 6 years, simply for being a Christian. The guards of the prison would often ask him to sign a contract forbidding him to talk about Jesus or meet with any Christians. And even after being locked up for 5 months in a cell so narrow he could only lie down, he still would not sign it. I’m not sure I could endure even a single day of that torture, let alone five months, and after that, still trust God.

    This conviction is re-awakening the passion in my heart for seeing people won for Christ, while not being ashamed to do it. The fears I have about asking people to church or telling them about Jesus now seem ridiculous compared to the hardships the persecuted face every day in order to make Christ known.

    I want the same faith as the Christians in countries like North Korea, where there is the highest level of persecution and yet still tens of thousands of people are still staying strong in their belief in Jesus. I don’t want to settle for a mediocre version of Christianity.

    But how? How am I supposed to be like this when I can’t get over the thought of people judging me because of my faith? The answer came in 1 Corinthians 12:12 –26. It’s the passage that explains that as the church we are all part of one body, the body of Christ. In the passage Paul, the author, talks about how as a body has many different parts, so does the church, and each of these parts have a unique function that is essential to making the body work. He goes onto say how we must not compare ourselves to other parts of the body (or the church) because the body cannot operate properly with just one part, it needs all of them.

    This conviction is re-awakening the passion in my heart for seeing people won for Christ, while not being ashamed to do it.

    This made me think about the Christians in all different places around the world facing all different types of situations. About how even though the churches in countries like Iraq and Syria may experience an extreme amount of persecution, God has put us where we are under different circumstances for a reason. We should be using persecuted Christians like Peter as excellent examples of faith, and we should aim to have an equal amount of trust in God. But it doesn’t mean we have to be in their position to still serve God and the body of Christ.

    “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it (1 Corinthians 12:18).” Though sometimes I know I can doubt this, God has me in this part of the world with the people who are around me for a reason and as a church we are called to help those in persecution and those who live and walk with us every day.

    In the long run we all have the same goal, and that’s what makes us a body in Christ, we want to see people all over the world experience His love and have the opportunity to ask Him into their lives as their Saviour.

    And just as we are one body “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it… (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).” So we must not ever forget or dismiss those in persecution because although they may be physically far away, as believers we are united in our common belief in Jesus Christ.

    We must always be praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ, believing that their struggle and the persecution they face is not in vain, yet for a greater purpose. Matthew 5:10 says, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

  • We support people who are beaten, tortured,
    imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.