• Christmas: Knowing God

    You know the Christmas story already right? Angels appearing and sayng, ‘do not be afraid’. A really long journey involving a heavily pregnant woman. The lack of hotel rooms and then Jesus being born and laid in a manger. The shepherds and wise men following a star and finding Jesus. So, as the nights start getting colder and longer, you may be thinking that you need a rest, rather than hearing that same familiar story all over again?

    We can know a lot about Jesus and the Christmas story. Kind of like social media – you can follow a load of people and know a lot about them, but do we really know them? It can be the same with our faith – do we really know Jesus?

    Image: Boy looking out over a city in Egypt – illustrative image – this isn’t Adel.

    Knowing about to knowing: Adel’s story

    Adel is 10 and he lives in Egypt. He’s grown up knowing his family are called ‘Christians’. He’s learnt the Lord’s prayer, goes to church at Christmas and is treated differently because of his faith. But he didn’t really understanding what being a Christian means. Adel knew about Jesus, but didn’t actually know Him.

    From a young age Adel was forced to start working at a rubbish filtration workshop. If he didn’t bring home enough money at the end of the day, his dad would beat him.

    Meanwhile, at his job, Adel was humiliated by his boss and teammates: he says he was paid less than his Muslim co-workers, and they would make fun of him and call him ‘crazy’ because he was known as a Christian. Remember, he’s only 10. That’s a lot to deal with.

    Adel was understandably unhappy. He heard about a children’s group that was meeting during his break time and decided to go. Here, for the first time, Adel heard about a God that had created him and loved him. One of the most important topics he learnt about was ‘God as a father’. This was massive for Adel, as his idea of God had been distorted because of his own experience with his father.

    A new chapter opened in Adel’s life. “Knowing God makes me feel happy.” Adel says: “I know I have a Father in heaven that I can always talk to. That’s amazing.”

    Adel changed. Before he knew about God. Now he know’s God. He knows he has a loving Heavenly Father, and amazing truth, especially if our earthly dads aren’t what we hoped they would be.

    What about you?

    So here’s the question: Are we so familiar with the story of Christmas that we forget how amazing it is to get to know God? For Adel knowing there is a God he can always speak to has changed how he sees himself and his life. For us, choosing to get to know Jesus could be the best possible way to celebrate Christmas this year.

    “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
    John 1:18

    As you hear or watch the Christmas story this year, we are praying you will see and know Jesus more.

    Send hope this Christmas: Two ways to act now…

    As we start looking forward to Christmas, could you send hope to young Christians facing persecution?

    1. Write a message of hope to a few different young people and let them know that you’re praying for them.

    2. Lose something from your Christmas list, and ask for a donation to Open Doors instead…

  • True value

    Do you know how much money is spent on advertising? Millions of pounds spent on making us think that we need more stuff, that we aren’t good enough. Did you know it’s all lies? And let’s be real, we’ve all fallen for it – we’ve all bought something thinking it will make us more cool / attractive / fun / accepted / etc… but deep down you know the truth, it doesn’t work.

    We live in a world which will actively lie to us. We live in a world which is living to a different standard. If you’re a Christian, we are called to live listening to God’s voice as he speaks the truth we are desperate to hear. God speaks truth.

    We are valuable because the God who created us has given us value.

    The Bible is one of the key ways we can learn about what God says and hear his truth. His truth that we are wonderfully and fearfully made, the truth that you and me are valuable; not because of what we look like, or how smart we are, or how good we are at football. We are valuable because the God who created us has given us value. His truth tells us that being successful is not about being popular or earning loads of money. God’s success is to love and serve those around us – amazingly when we do these things we actively feel better about ourselves!

    Maybe you are realising that you need more truth in your life – if so we want to help you out! That’s why we have created Hidden Word. A pack aimed at getting God’s truth into your heart.

  • New year: Given up?

    So it’s the start of the year and you’re thinking about resolutions. You want 2022 to be a year where you move forward and grow… so what’s going to help you do that? Here’s a different idea – this year what about giving up? Giving up your plans and dreams to God.

    So this year why don’t you start by just giving up.

    Often we can be so focused on doing “good” things, that we can miss what God is really saying. You know what I’m saying – going to church every week, serving in some way… but doing it because it’s what you always do, not because you are seeing what God is doing in you or through you.

    So this year why don’t you start by just giving up. Giving up and letting God have control of your life. It sounds simple, but giving God control means surrendering your time, your money, your friendships, your plans, your relationships, your hobbies. Giving all of these to the God of the universe who has created you to become someone full of purpose and life.

    You see, the persecuted church teach us that in giving up, in losing out, we can find a deeper faith in the One who never gives up or loses hope in us. Whether it be home, security, family or freedom, many Christians choose to give up those things to keep a relationship with Jesus. So, this year, be inspired by them – by Christians like Poh whose family discovered his Christian faith and kicked him out. Could you be inspired by him, and give up your plans and dreams to God and see where He will take you?

    Here is a prayer you could pray:

    Father God, here I am, you know me better than anyone else. You know what I’ve been created for. So today I give you all that I am. All my hopes and fears, all that I spend my time doing, all that I am would you take me and use me to live for you. Open my eyes to how you want to use me this year and help me to respond to your voice when I hear it. Thank you that you are a God that I can trust, who has the best for my life. Thank you that you are with me every step of the way. Amen.

    Choose to Lose in 2022

    All this talk about giving up fits nicely with our simple fundraiser, Choose to Lose. Could you get sponsored to give up something you love to raise money and prayer for persecuted Christians who have given up much because of their faith in Jesus?

  • Seeing differently

    Recently I’ve realised my vision is blurred. The way I see is distorted. I don’t wear glasses, and my optician said my eyes are fine. But sometimes my sight is a bit hazy. And, I think you might have the same problem.

    The way we see the world has changed. From the moment we wake, to how we work, develop relationships, make plans and even study are now all mediated through a screen. But the device I hold in my hand, the screen which I use to increasingly make sense of the world, has in fact changed me.

    I worry about whether my posts come across as too self-absorbed or too self-critical. I find value in likes, follows and comments. I’ve become my own personal PR consultant trying to optimise the worth of my unique brand, and it’s driving me a little bit crazy.

    I don’t think I’m the only one. Last year, Youth For Christ released research which discovered that social media and YouTube were two of the top three things that make us feel bad about themselves – but they are also among the things we spend the most time doing.

    Our screens reflect back to us what we post, the things we buy, the music we listen to and the articles we read… ‘If you like this, then you’ll like this’, ‘Other customers bought’. With fake news and the Facebook data scandal, we’re beginning to see how our social profiles can act as echo chambers, reinforcing our own prejudices.

    The screen has undoubtedly changed us, for good and bad. But my eyes are blurry. I need a break. And maybe you do too.

    Switch off to see differently…

    Maybe we need to switch off and take time to see ourselves differently. To not simply see a reflection of ourselves or how we’d like others to see us, but to see how God looks at us so that we can see with genuine clarity.

    New focus…

    Jesus tells a story of a guy who is looking for pearls (Matt 13: 45-46). The man is searching and when he finds a pearl of great value, he sells all he has so he can buy it. This story isn’t about pretty gems, but about our focus. Jesus is saying that there is something bigger and better out there – something our screens can distort or block us from seeing.

    Semira*, a teenager from Eritrea, understands what Jesus is getting at. Her dad was taken by police during an illegal prayer meeting. He was imprisoned and has no release date. But despite threats and intimidation, Semira hasn’t given up on Jesus. Her mum said:

    “She was given three warnings from the school for sharing her faith and she was told not to talk to any children even during school breaks. One day some of her fellow students threw rocks at her. They regularly tell her that she doesn’t deserve to be their friend. Sometimes they also throw rocks at the house.

    “My daughter is never scared of the persecution anymore. Even if they keep hurting her physically, she doesn’t care. She always says, ‘God won’t let me down. I am ready until death to follow Him.’”

    Semira understands how God sees her. She’s found her pearl, and she’s prepared to give up everything for it.

    ‘God won’t let me down. I am ready until death to follow Him.’

    Go screen-free…

    The courageous and brave faith of persecuted Christians like Semira can be a real antidote to our blurred vision. The persecuted church can help us to see with more clarity, to refocus and identify what we really value and why.

    At Open Doors we’re going screen free for 48 hours to to stand with persecuted Christians to learn from their courageous faith.

    Switching off for a short period gives you the time to pause and evaluate, and to put our attention back where it belongs, on God, the pearl who is worth everything. It helps us refocus our eyes so that we see ourselves, not through our followers and likes, but as God does.

    Join the Blackout

    Join the Blackout by yourself or with your youth group. Switch off your screens for up to 48 hours. Stay off your socials, shut down the Switch or Xbox and turn off the TV. Instead, spend time praying for change and being inspired by the courageous faith of the persecuted church. Find out more and sign up at:

    *Name changed for security reasons…

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