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Ronny Mannebonia

Refugee Hope Partner Christmas Dinner

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Dear Church Family,

I’m constantly inspired by our church’s compassion and commitment to those in need. This Christmas, we have a Loving Others opportunity to extend Christ’s love to refugees in our city, many of whom are not yet familiar with the story of Christ or the true meaning of Christmas.

Why Refugees? Our recent interactions with refugee families in our neighborhood have deeply moved me. These families, hailing from places like Burma, El Salvador, Sudan, Congo, and Vietnam, have faced unimaginable challenges. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, and these refugees are our neighbors in the truest sense, as all of them live within a five-minute driving distance from the Harvest Building.

About Refugee Hope Partners: Refugee Hope Partners, serving the Raleigh community for over a decade, embodies the gospel’s call to love our neighbors, regardless of where they come from. Our collaboration with them extends beyond this event, as several of our members actively participate in weekly homework help sessions and directly support refugees in various ways.

Christmas Dinner with Refugee Hope Partners: On December 9th, from 6 PM to 9 PM, we are excited to partner with Refugee Hope Partners to host a Christmas dinner at their Welcome Center. This isn’t just a meal; it’s a starting point for relationships that can transform lives – both theirs and ours.

This year marks our sixth occasion engaging with refugee families. Our focus is on reaching out to those who have newly arrived and are yet to find a church family. This includes believers seeking discipleship and others who are yet to hear the message of Christ. This dinner is an open invitation to all – to sit at the same table, share stories, and truly listen. 

How You Can Serve:
Currently, there is a significant need for volunteers to minister to children. Additionally, you can also contribute to this event by helping with setup and cleanup, donating essentials like paper plates, and welcoming refugees to share in a meal and conversation. Each act of service is a profound way to embody the gospel we cherish.

 A Call to Go Beyond:

While sharing a meal is a wonderful start, I encourage you or your small groups to consider deepening your commitment by ‘adopting’ a refugee family. This involves being actively involved in their lives, helping them in times of need, showing Christ’s love through practical means, and earning their trust to share the gospel.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, who came to us as a Stranger in a manger, let us open our hearts to those who are strangers among us. This Christmas, let us celebrate His birth and live out His love in tangible ways. Should you have any questions or wish to learn more about how you can be involved, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Pastor Ronny

Reasons to Praise God from Psalm 111

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  1. His works are remarkable and awe inspiring (v. 2)
  2. His righteousness is unwavering and eternal (v. 3)
  3. He shows us kindness and compassion (v. 4)
  4. He ensures the needs of those who fear Him are met (v. 5)
  5. He always remembers His promises (v. 5)
  6. He shows His supreme authority over the nations (v. 6)
  7. He gives His people a lasting legacy (v. 6)
  8. He exemplifies steadfastness and righteousness (v. 7)
  9. He is always reliable and fair (v. 7)
  10. His precepts are completely reliable and true (v. 7)
  11. His deeds are characterized by honesty and integrity (v. 8)
  12. His precepts are firm and unchanging forever (v. 8)
  13. He displays his nature and intentions through his works (v. 2, 7)
  14. He pays for our redemption (v. 9)
  15. His praise lasts forever without end (v. 10)

Prayer Resources for the Persecuted Church and Unreached People

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Church Family,

As a church, we want to take Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:10-11 to heart, recognizing that our collective prayers can make a powerful impact in the lives of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for loving our Lord. 

Here are some resources I find very helpful to know and pray for the persecuted church and unreached and unengaged people. 

Persecuted Church:

1. (ICC): : International Christian Concern provides detailed country profiles and prayer requests for persecuted Christians worldwide.

2. Voice of the Martyrs (VOM): Voice of the Martyrs supports persecuted Christians worldwide. Their website offers news articles, stories of persecuted believers, and prayer resources.

3. :iCommitToPray is a free online platform to connect us with prayer requests from persecuted Christians worldwide. You can sign up to receive personalized prayer requests.

4. : Global Christian Relief provides humanitarian aid and disaster relief to Christians worldwide. Their prayer app offers daily prayer prompts and stories of persecuted believers.

5. : Open Doors USA is a non-profit organization that supports persecuted Christians worldwide. Their website offers news articles, reports, and prayer resources for persecuted believers.

Here are some resources to help you pray for the unreached and unengaged people:

  1. The Joshua Project provides detailed information about unreached people groups, including their location, population, language, and religious beliefs. You can also find prayer guides and resources for specific people groups.
  2. The podcast “Pray the Word” is a valuable resource for praying for the persecuted church and the unreached. It features daily meditations on God’s Word, led by pastor and author David Platt, and guides us in targeted prayers for the world. (David was my pastor when I lived in Birmingham, and I learned much about unreached people under his teaching.)
  3. Operation World: This comprehensive resource book provides information on every country worldwide, including their religious demographics and challenges to Christian witness. It also includes prayer prompts for each country.

See you on Tuesday at 7 pm.


Reading Plan Reflections – Acts 9

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Paul’s influence upon the early church is so powerfully apparent that non-Christians debate whether Paul was a mere follower of Jesus or the actual founder of Christianity. I debated with a Muslim apologist a few years ago, and he claimed that Paul founded Christianity. They say that because of his influence on the church’s history. Besides writing thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, he was also very effective as an Apostle, missionary, and church planter.

From our reading plan last week, however, when we are first introduced to Paul, he was a violent persecutor of the Christian church (Acts 9:1). Like most today, a “crucified Savior” was a stumbling block and an oxymoron to Jews (1 Cor. 1:23-24). Paul knows God had already expressed his judgment against Jesus by hanging Him on the cross—case closed (Deut. 21:23), so he thought.

However, on his way to Damascus, a bright light from heaven suddenly shone around him at noon with a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul immediately recognized that this heavenly light was the glory of God. Consequently, he responds, “Who are you, Lord?” The answer to Saul’s question came in the divine glory, “I am Jesus.” He thought he was serving God by persecuting Christians. And he is now faced with the Name that he hated the most. Paul’s conversion was so dramatic that his heart, once filled with hatred toward Christians, was replaced with love, peace, and faith. 
In this brief devotion, I want to draw a couple of observations from one verse, Acts 9:4, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”.

First is Jesus’s identification with His people. Before this encounter, Paul had never met Jesus. Did you notice Jesus’s question? Jesus did not ask why he persecuted his disciples. He asked, “Why are you persecuting Me?”. Jesus so intimately identifies with His people that, when they are persecuted, He feels persecuted. Paul understood that our Lord had some kind of intimate connection with His followers, resulting in Jesus sharing our experiences. Isn’t that the best news for all of us? This verse has been the most precious verse to me. It is one thing that we would share in His sufferings (Phil 3:10). It is an entirely different thing that He would share in our sufferings. This kind of relationship is unique to Christianity, while some religions view this as blasphemy. The God who holds all the creation together (Col. 1) is the One who identifies and shares in our suffering and pain.

The second is the principle of sanctification. The truth of Jesus’s relationship with His people would be foundational for Paul’s ethics. Perhaps the most overlooked observation, in my opinion, is the implications of Christ’s union on how we treat each other. This verse has impacted how I view my marriage, relationships, and ministry. The same Lord who identifies with my sufferings also identifies with my brother and sister’s sufferings. When the emotions are high, and it is easy to be upset, I start asking myself, do I treat this person the same way if it was Lord Jesus? The One we love and seek to honor the most loves them and has died for them. Should we not love those whom our Lord loves?

Pauls says to the Ephesians not to grieve the Spirit of God (Eph 4:30). We grieve the Spirit when we are bitter, angry, clamor, and slander one another (Eph 4:31). Rather, Paul tells us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32. Let’s be a church that is kind and tenderhearted towards one another and seek reconciliation because we are people forgiven by God for our sins. I don’t do it perfectly, but it really changed my relationship with my wife and how I interact with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Everyone who feels dishonoring our Lord is unthinkable should treat one another with love and respect.

We should also view this positively, based on Matt 25:40. If we serve even the least of the disciples, Jesus says, “You did it to me.” And Heb 6:10, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” It is a great honor to serve our Lord by serving one another. 

Meditation and Memorization

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Life is in the Word because it is God-breathed, living, and active. Several falsely assume that the early Church created the Word. But, the Word created the Church and will sustain it until Christ returns. The Church does not own God’s Word; we are its stewards and servants. As its stewards and servants, we must be found faithful. Our faithfulness stems from our understanding and obeying God’s truth.

We have been working through a two-year bible reading plan. As we increase our Bible’s knowledge in terms of its breadth, let’s take it a little deeper with scripture memory and meditation. This Summer, from June through early September, we are memorizing God’s Word together. The small group coaches have prayerfully chosen these passages to help us pray (Matt 6:9–13), help us praise God (Psalm 148), and help us know the gospel (Romans 1:1–7, 16–17).

Psalm 148 is a great praise Psalm. We rarely take time to praise and worship God in our prayers but quickly run to make our needs known. It will be good to memorize this one, so praising Him becomes a part of our life. There is power in us praising and worshipping Him. In fact, it is more powerful than any of our resolutions to battle sin. Just as we worship our way to sin, we must worship our way out of sin. As we memorize this Psalm, worshipping God remains on our lips and hearts.

Romans 1:1–7, 16–17 concisely summarizes the gospel’s content. We can never take the gospel for granted, as our growth in Christ is never beyond the gospel but in growing deeper into it. As we meditate on the gospel, let our praise and adoration for Christ increase for the ultimate price He paid for our sins. The same gospel that released us from the penalty of sin also releases us from its power.

Memorizing and Meditating on God’s Word

Memorization and meditation are commanded in the Scripture.

  •  Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
  •  Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law … you shall meditate on it day and night.
  •  Deuteronomy 11:1819 You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and soul ….
  •  John 15:7–– If you abide in me, and my words abide in you …
  •  Colossians 3:16–– Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….
  • Meditation is crucial to understanding, and memorization makes meditation accessible. Meditation separates us from a pharisee, a Muslim, or an unbeliever. They memorized the Scripture too, only to argue with a Christian. But they don’t internalize or meditate on it and could never reap the benefits of God’s Word. As we aim to wrap our minds around a text, we are greatly aided by already having it in our minds.
  • Meditation is marked by submission to God. Our goal in memorizing the Scripture is understanding and obeying the Word. This exercise is not mastery of God or His Word, but God’s mastery of us through the HolySpirit’s ministry.
  • Meditation aims at communion with God. If we forget that meditation aims at communing with God, it may become transactional instead of relational. Don’t waste too much time thinking about how to meditate or memorize. It is more important to spend more time thinking about God and speaking to God than focusing on how we should do it.
  • Meditation on God’s Word helps you to speak truth into others’ lives. Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart mouth speaks. If we store God’s Word in our hearts, it will inevitably come out of our mouths. Often when you try to speak God’s truth on the fly, the Holy Spirit will call your mind from the toolbox of Scripture you have stored up.
  • Meditation doesn’t always feel awesome. We won’t necessarily memorize much of God’s Word on any given day, and the practice gets complicated, especially during a dry spell. It doesn’t always feel awesome. But, we don’t allow ourselves to believe that reading God’s word and memorizing is “not doing anything.”

How to Meditate on Scripture

  •  Read Prayerfully
  • Read attentively
  •  Read, then write, then recite and call it to mind
  •  Read and memorize it with your small group to keep each other accountable
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