Making Christian Connections
There is something encouraging about knowing you are not alone. In 1 Peter 5:9 we are encouraged to resist Satan and the encouragement given is knowing that others are facing the same afflictions and temptations. Sometimes we suffer from the Elijah syndrome which occurs when we think we are the only ones in the whole world who are faithful. Other than the days of Noah that has never been the case. God has children throughout the world and we would do well to remember that.
I know we are busy with our lives and many churches are busy with their own activities, fellowship time, Bible studies, outreach, evangelism, benevolence programs, etc.(and they may be great things to be involved in), but we have to make time to make contact with other Christians beyond our own congregation as well. Do we connect with a church when we are traveling? Do we visit area congregations when they have a meeting, ladies’ day, or even VBS? Do we interact with other Christians by phone, email or snail mail, or even social media?
During the first century there were certain places with more persecution than other places. At one point all of the Jews were forced to leave Rome, in some towns Paul stayed and preached for a long time while in others he was attacked, Jesus even told the disciples at one point that if they were persecuted in one city they should flee to another. He was not encouraging cowardice, but prudence; live to fight another day. I believe that the same clustering of persecution will be true in our modern times as well. Just as certain things have been pushed and promoted more in some states than others, it seems likely that before there is a national persecution there would be some in certain cities or states. If they become severe enough it might be advisable for Christians to leave one place and go to another. Would you have any contacts under those circumstances? Where could you go? Who could you call? Who could call on you?
I think about the Christians who got out of Jerusalem before the destruction or the Jews who left Germany and later Austria to escape Hitler. Some thought it was foolish and unnecessary and that nothing bad would happen, but looking back we see those leaving were wise. I certainly am not saying that we should all be scared and running for our lives. We are not there yet and I still hope that we can turn things around, but I am saying that just as with a fire, tornado or hurricane it is good to have a plan in case of emergency. Once the house is on fire is too late to plan. Some probably think that I am being silly to even bring any of this up, but that is what many thought before the destruction of Jerusalem and before WWII as well. It is better to be prepared for something that never occurs than to be caught flat footed when it does happen.
Our country is currently on a trajectory away from religious freedom. If you don’t believe it consider what is going on in the military which has always had a strong religious foundation.
* An Air Force officer was told to remove a Bible from his desk because it might give the impression he was endorsing a religion.
*The Air Force censored a video created by a chaplain because it include the word “God.” The Air Force feared the word might offend Muslims and atheists.
*A service member received a “severe and possibly career-ending reprimand” for expressing his faith’s religious position about homosexuality in a personal religious blog.
*A senior military official at Fort Campbell sent out a lengthy email officially instructing officers to recognize “the religious right in America” as a “domestic hate group” akin to the KKK and Neo-Nazis because of its opposition to homosexual behavior.
*A chaplain was relieved of his command over a military chapel because, consistent with DOMA’s definition of marriage, he could not allow same-sex weddings to take place in the chapel.
*The VA has banned the use of “God” in military funerals.
These are actual events, not some fictional storyline. Add to that the fact that this very week the Supreme Court heard a case about whether a town council can say a prayer before they start their meeting. Can you imagine that happening 50 or 100 years ago. The founding fathers said prayers when they had meetings, but some think it should not be allowed anymore. We are definitely headed toward persecution of Christians if we don’t make a course correction.
In the meantime having fellowship with other Christians near and far will help us grow stronger and help them grow stronger. Studies have been done showing that the number of Christian friendships a person has is directly related to how likely they are to remain faithful. We are a family and even though we don’t see all of our family every week we still love those family members that live far away from us. I know in my family there are some family members who have never met one another, but we still know they are family if we need them or they need us. We will not meet all of our Christian family on this side of Heaven, but we need to know they are family if we need them or they need us. - jp