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Ministry

Pray for the Arab World Today

Frontiers will be praying and/or fasting today for the Arab world.  Here’s an outline to pray with them:

Prayer Guide for the Arab World

Part One: Praise for many aspects of what has happened so far

Many of the events which have happened so far have had evidence of Godʼs mercy and compassion in them. In many cases, changes have taken place with a minimum of violence and destruction. The proud have been brought down, and the poor and humble lifted up. We praise God for protecting people and restraining evil, and ask Him to release all of his promised blessings on the peacemakers and the merciful (Matt. 5:7,9).

  • Protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, and Jordan remained mostly peaceful, until present.
  • The military in Egypt refused to turn their guns on the people, preventing what would have been a massacre of many innocents.
  • The king in Bahrain stepped back from using the military against the people, after some initial violence.
  • Rulers of Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, and Algeria have all made some decisions that allow greater freedom and crack down on corruption and human rights abuses in their countries.
  • Protesters in Libya were protected during the crucial early weeks of the uprising from reprisals by the government (this may be changing now, and we accompany this praise with deep prayer for Godʼs intervention in the situation there, now).

Part Two: Prayer for the gospel to go out in power across the Arab world now

There is a temporary window of freedom for the gospel in Egypt, Tunisia, eastern Libya, and possibly in some of the other Arab countries that are experiencing protests. Pray for Godʼs people to not let this opportunity pass, for as long as the door is open.

  • In Tunisia, some missionaries who were previously kicked out of the country by the government have been allowed back in. Pray for openness in every Arab country for messengers of the Gospel to come in.
  • In Egypt, some Muslim-background believers have shared that they now feel great freedom to share about their faith openly with friends and family. Pray for a spirit of boldness among Muslim-background believers in the region, and a receptive spirit in those around them.
  • In Tahrir Square in Cairo (the main square where the protests took place), Jesus Christ was preached in open air to tens of thousands of Muslims by national church leaders during the protests, in an atmosphere of freedom. Pray that true freedom for open proclamation of the Gospel will be established in the Arab world.
  • The border between Libya and Egypt is currently open for Christians to enter and share the love of Jesus through medical and practical help, as well as through proclamation of the Word. This opportunity has not existed for generations. Pray that the opportunity will remain open.
  • Pray for an increase of freedom for apostolic teams and national churches to proclaim Jesus in every country across the Arab world. Pray that all the changes taking place will move toward that.

Part Three: Prayer for rulers and those in authority

God loves justice and righteousness, and is the giver of freedom. Pray that He will move rulers and authorities in the Arab world at this time to make righteous decisions on behalf of their people, that promote freedom of expression and religion, compassionate economic development, and respect for human rights.

  • Pray for the interim government of Tunisia, for wisdom and freedom from corruption, and to set the country on a long-term track of peace, stability, and righteousness.
  • Pray for the military rulers of Egypt, that they will be wise in decisions they make about the future of Egypt, and in their timetable for handing power over to a civilian government. Pray for the restoration of order in the midst of a wave of lawlessness and crime across the country.
  • Pray that God will restrain the murder and destruction unleashed by Ghaddafi against his own people in Libya, and establish a government that rules on behalf of the people in Libya, opening doors for the Gospel.
  • Pray for leaders of countries that are currently facing sizable protests for change, that they will make decisions in line with Godʼs will for their lands: Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Algeria, and Lebanon.
  • Pray for leaders of Arab countries that have not yet had to face sizable protest for change, that God will give them wisdom and cause them to respond to whatever He wants to accomplish there: Mauritania, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Syria, and the Palestinian territories.

Part Four: Prayer for protection and blessing on Godʼs people

In the midst of turmoil, there has been an increase for Godʼs people in the region in opportunity as well as in threat. There is potential for greater religious freedom and equality, but also threat of increased danger and persecution.

  • Christians in Egypt have faced intense violence from extremist Muslims over the past week, with riots, a church being burned, and numerous Christians being killed. Pray for protection and peace for Godʼs people in Egypt (Isaiah 19:25), and for a spirit of bold proclamation of Jesus the Messiah.
  • Christians in the Arab world face discrimination and pressure from legal measures that are unfair to them. Pray that the current upheavals will bring about lasting changes in the constitution and legal system of each country that allow the church to flourish and fulfill its calling to reach Muslims.
  • Over the past decade, prayer movements have flourished across the Arab world. In Egypt and Algeria in particular, these movements have been significant in size and boldness/faith. Current circumstances are pushing Christians to pray as never before, feeling that it is their prayers in large part that have brought about some of the current changes. Pray for the growth and increase of prayer inside the Arab world.
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Life

The stories you won’t read about will matter the most.

I used to hate soccer.  I thought it was for Europeans who didn’t have the coordination to play American sports.  Then I lived in South Africa and was continually schooled by kids half my age who did things with a soccer ball with their feet that I can’t even do with my hands.  After a year there, my appreciation has grown for the game. I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard, but suffice it to say that I’m going to pay a bit more attention to the World Cup that starts this Friday. I’m even more interested because it is being hosted by none other than South Africa.

South Africa and it’s people has been preparing for this tournament for a long time. This is the largest sporting event to ever be hosted on the African continent. This is a big deal.  Most likely, Africa will never host an Olympic Games, so unless another World Cup comes to the continent, this is Africa’s (not just South Africa’s) finest hour.

As much as the international competition excites me, what’s more is the fact that the entire world is coming to South Africa, and churches and para-church ministries want to spread the gospel to the visiting nations.  They have been preparing for this since the vote was cast to bring the tournament to their beloved country.

In the next month, you will read or watch a lot about this tournament if you open up a sports page or log onto ESPN.com.  You’ll read  about Wayne Rooney scoring goals for England, or Landon Donavon leading the Americans on an improbable run. You will hear about Bafana Bafana (SA’s national team) and their fans’ vuvuzela noise makers.  You will watch segments about the favorites, Spain, Italy, and Germany, and their superstar rosters that shouldn’t even lose a game.  You will learn about a country torn by racism that is slowing healing and how something as insignificant as a soccer tournament can be much-needed medicine.

But the stories that you won’t hear or read or see will be the most eternally important. They will be about a boy from Soweto who hears the Jesus story in his own language. They will be about a local university soccer player who is bold enough to share his faith for the first time. They will be about churches partnering with other churches from another denomination in order to tell people how God and sports are more related than you might think. They will be about Argentinian and Dutch fans who read a gospel tract in their hotel rooms and want to know more about spiritual realities. They will be about those lonely times after a loss when a striker realizes there is more to life than scoring goals and winning a trophy. They will be about a country that needs medicine — not in the form of futbol — but in the form of the Great Physician, who not only heals emotional wounds, but forgives the worst of sins.

These are the stories that will matter millions of years after World Cup 2010 is over. All these stories are bound up in the great story of redemption that God has been, and is still, writing. It’s a story worth paying attention to. Let’s ask our Mighty God to open the eyes of the blind and draw all people to his Son.

Categories
Life Theology

Jesus Keeps Pursuing, Even When We are Ignorant

Many people have interpreted Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well as a model for personal evangelism for Christians.  That’s one way of looking at it, I guess.  Perhaps more significantly, however, we can look at this episode to see how we are like the woman, and how Jesus is our great Pursuer.  This passage shows us our immense need to constantly come to the Fountain of life and drink.

In John 4:4, it says that Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.”  He didn’t do this because it was the shortest route, but because he had an appointment.  He had an appointment with a woman who needed to be pursued — a woman who needed to be saved.

Notice the conversation in verses 7-25.  The woman is continually plagued by a lack of spiritual fiber in her bones.  She can’t handle spiritual realities.  She’s blind.  She’s ignorant.  She’s only able to think in terms of things she can see and touch:

  • She thinks Jesus can’t give her water because he doesn’t have a bucket (v. 11).
  • She thinks Jesus gives water so she won’t have to come to draw from this particular well anymore (v. 15).
  • She avoids her sin by starting a debate about where people should worship (vv. 19-20).

If we are honest with ourselves, we are the woman.  Even the disciples didn’t always digest deep, spiritual realities (e.g. John 4:33).  We continually need the great, pursuing Savior to tear away the blinders of spiritual ignorance and give us knowledge of himself.

Where do you see yourself in this woman?  Where are you ignorant of Jesus’ pursuit of you?  How will you respond?

Categories
Life

The Splendid and Stern Gospel of John the Baptizer

In Luke 3, John the Baptizer’s gospel is hard, stern, and in-your-face.  He preaches a radical lifestyle of self-sacrifice, compassion, and justice (vv. 10-14).  He even goes so far to say that the Christ has an axe ready to cut down the unfruitful tree and winnowing fork ready to burn the worthless chaff (vv. 9, 17).

Luke didn’t see this latter part as unloving, unproductive, or un-Christian.  How did he see it?  He wrote, “So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people” (v. 18).

This is so unlike the good news we hear in Christianity today.  The “good news” is supposed to be soft, accommodating, and hippie-like.  C.S. Lewis thought otherwise about how we are to love people.  He said, “Love is something more splendid and stern than mere kindness.”  May we Christians be splendid and stern, like John, as we proclaim this good news to a dying and needy world.

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Ministry

Back to Normal

Our five week summer project in Johannesburg finishes up today.  The students will be headed back to the states this evening and we’ll be on our way back to Pretoria to start the final 97 day plunge of this 11 month trip.  It has been an exciting past month and the Lord, as always, did wonderful things.  I’ll share more in the next few days.

peace,
james