Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Effective for Many

God,

You oblige us to pray for the king,

And those in authority—but what when so many?

We lift up the name of prime minister designate,

And of the president with whom he confers.

But God, we prayed also for the former candidate,

And the one before him, and the one before that.

Not to mention the speaker, and heads of the parties—

Does Lebanon suffer from too many cooks?

But worse is what comes from widespread accusation:

Lebanon suffers from too many crooks.

God, you know.

God, we pray anyway.

You can ensure that a cabinet forms.

But God, when it does, we have more names to pray for?

Eighteen, or twenty, perhaps twenty-four?

Each one a means for political patronage?

They should be a means for your blessing to flow.

So many are frustrated, God.

Why have our prayers not been answered already?

Going back decades, suffering war.

Can it be that the nation has not labored sufficiently?

With its hands, with its minds – and especially knees?

Must we weep? Must we fast? Put on sackcloth and ashes?

Or calmly acknowledge your good sovereign will?

God, the kings are many.

But they agreed—to mourn.

There is much more to do to honor the victims

Of the criminal blast almost one year ago.

But honor their marking of this anniversary,

While holding accountable all who bear guilt.

Lift the immunities.

Structure the sanctions.

Shield the people from all further hurt.

God, give Lebanon a government.

And prayers of the righteous—effective in power.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Water Worries

God,

No money, no medicine.

Less food on the shelves.

And now we are told that the water won’t flow?

Maybe the oil will come from Iraq.

If not, then the hospitals’ power is cut.

Delta is coming. Vaccine rates stay low.

And a thousand-plus doctors have traveled abroad.

Will there be hope in a new politician?

A prime minister maybe, with cabinet plan?

God, we have prayed that you raise up the leaders

Able and willing to serve Lebanon.

Is this the round that will soon prove decisive?

Or weeks and months further, with no one in charge?

Have we nothing to hope but the prayer of the prophet:

“Though all things are failing, I trust in my God.”

God, let us repeat it.

God, strengthen our faith.

God, rescue the country.

God, cleanse our wicked ways.

Until then, and if not, can you make it so?

Truly my heart can rejoice in the Lord?

Make my feet like the deer. Let me tread on the heights.

Let me pray for my people.

Let me plead for my land.

God, there is little we can do of substance.

Powerful interests and groups get their way.

Even so like the child with sling in his pocket,

Slay the Goliaths who immobilize us.

Our prayers are the stones, direct them to target.

We know not where to aim—only you know the heart.

Hear as I cry out while full of frustration:

This politician, or that, is the cause.

Maybe it’s true, and rule in your wisdom.

Where I have agency, strengthen my hand.

But give us respect for the sincere in difference.

Yes, they are sinners, but I am the worst.

Will such a prayer help restock the medicine?

Will our humility maintain water flow?

God, we are floundering.

God, we grow hopeless.

Somehow help my heart to press on, in faith.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Americas Christianity Today Published Articles Religious Freedom

Christian and Muslim Leaders Agree on Legitimacy of Evangelism

Image: Courtesy of World Evangelical Alliance
Nahdlatul Ulama leader Yahya Cholil Staquf presents World Evangelical Alliance leader Thomas Schirrmacher with a festschrift at The Nation’s Mosque in Washington, DC, during the 2021 International Religious Freedom Summit.

The world’s largest Muslim organization accepts that Christians will try to convert its members. A new partnership with evangelicals seeks to ensure this does not lead to conflict.

Last week, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) signed a statement of cooperation with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Indonesian association with an estimated 30 million to 50 million members. Established in 1926 to counter Wahhabi trends issuing from the Arabian Peninsula, its name means “Revival of the Religious Scholars.”

“Evangelicals very much aspire to proselytism, and so does Islam. So naturally there will be competition,” said NU secretary general Yahya Cholil Staquf. “But we need to have this competition conducted in a peaceful and harmonious environment.”

Staquf spoke from the stage of the 2021 International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington. On its opening day, he and WEA secretary general Thomas Schirrmacher signed “The Nation’s Mosque Statement,” along with Taleb Shareef, imam of Masjid Muhammad, the first American mosque built by the descendants of slaves.

Calling for “the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order,” the statement seeks a global alliance to prevent the political weaponization of identity and the spread of communal hatred.

Schirrmacher called the WEA’s cooperation with NU the product of deep theological dialogue, counter to the academic tendency to downplay truth claims. And as evangelicals, evangelism is at the heart of their effort.

“We are working together for the right to convert each other,” the German theologian said. “Religious freedom does not mean that we agree, but that…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on July 22, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Published Articles Religious Freedom

Summit Produces a ‘Pentecost’ Moment for International Religious Freedom

Image: Hailey Sadler / IRF Summit
Previous IRF ambassador David Saperstein speaks at the 2021 International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington.

One word floated forebodingly between parentheses throughout promotional material for the 2021 International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit:

Invited.

Following the names of Nancy Pelosi, Antony Blinken, and Samantha Power, it indicated uncertainty if the key Democratic stalwarts would participate.

As the approximately 1,200 registered attendees arrived, the distributed official program still did not include the current House speaker, secretary of state, or USAID administrator.

However, Mike Pompeo, Blinken’s predecessor at the US State Department, had a keynote address from the stage.

“There were a lot of questions heading into this summit, with a lot of hesitancy from the Biden people,” summit co-chair Sam Brownback told CT. “But we worked hard to make it bipartisan.”

Unlike the previous two ministerial meetings held in Washington, DC (and a third held virtually in Poland), this year’s IRF gathering was organized by civil society, not governments.

Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom during the Trump administration, was now a private citizen. He partnered with Katrina Lantos Swett, former chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, who was appointed by former Democratic senator Harry Reid.

Brownback chased the Republicans, and Lantos Swett the Democrats. Their friendship, Pam Pryor, senior advisor to the summit, told CT, is the “gold standard” in bipartisan cooperation. In the end, Lantos Swett was relatively…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on July 19, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Starting Over, Again

God,

Nine months of effort, and near the beginning

Everyone feared they would not find accord.

A lineup submitted, rejected, then insults,

Followed by go-betweens trying to help.

The cycle repeated with president steadfast,

As prime minister-designate traveled abroad.

Meanwhile we all waited for some resolution

To regional issues and nuclear deals.

Maybe its coming, and with it a bailout—

That others call caving to Western demands.

Or else full submission: Iranian interests.

But as we’re kept waiting things only grow worse.

Why, God?

Surely there are reasons. Maybe some make sense.

But back where we started all feels like a void.

Curse them?

Hail some?

Is there a side in omniscience you laud?

You want to bless us, and shower with favor

Those who are humble and righteous in deed.

But what of the suffering? Is it a trial?

Merely the birth pangs of good, soon to come?

Or is it your chastening? Or worse, even wrath?

Is it ours, or the fault of our leaders who sin?

God, you know.

Please show us the truth.

But rebuke the pride of each one who is certain.

Give introspection to every hard heart.

I ask for my leaders, and those still emerging.

I ask for myself, for I know not your will.

Bind our broken spirits, God.

Heal our broken land.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Asia Christianity Today Published Articles

Will Central Asia Become ‘Stans’ for Religious Freedom?

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

Now two of “the five ’Stans” are becoming bigger fans of—or, as Gen Z would say, “stanning” for—religious freedom.

“In Kazakhstan, all denominations can freely follow their religion,” said Yerzhan Nukezhanov, chairman of the committee for religious affairs, “and we will continue to create all necessary conditions for religious freedom.”

Speaking at the 2021 International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC, Nukezhanov signed a memorandum of understanding with Wade Kusack, head of the Love Your Neighbor Community. It sets a three-year roadmap that will train local imams, priests, and pastors in religious dialogue, to culminate in the establishment of religious freedom roundtables in nine Kazakh cities.

“It is a front door approach in openness and transparency with the government,” said Kusack. “Mutual trust is built one relationship at a time.”

An ethnic Belarusian, Kusack is also the senior fellow for Central Asia at the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), the American NGO which helped shepherd Uzbekistan’s efforts to improve its international religious freedom standing. In 2018, top Uzbek officials pledged reforms at the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, convened by the US State Department.

Later that year, Uzbekistan was removed from designation as a Country of Particular Concern for the first time since 2005. Downgraded to Special Watch List status, by 2020 enough progress was made for the State Department to delist the nation altogether.

Developments in Kazakhstan were hailed as “proof of concept” for the engagement model of international religious freedom advocacy. Not listed by the State Department, the nation has been recommended for SWL status by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom since 2013.

Nukezhanov noted 2018 as the year his committee established a religious freedom working group, specifically to demonstrate openness to American concerns. That same year, Nikolay Popov was fined $600 for sharing his Christian faith—without a license. Popov, part of the Council of Baptist Churches in Kazakhstan’s Karaganda region, also…

This article was originally published by Christianity Today on July 16, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Days Away

God,

Who needs to hear the message, and is it even true?

The appeal was a warning: Do not risk our collapse.

So said the prime minister asking for aid.

The social explosion is just ‘days away.’

Do not hold us hostage to hopes for reform.

Our people are hungry—so why won’t you help?

We have already, they replied, and standing ready still.

They also scoffed, and rolled their eyes.

Your own house is disordered.

Meanwhile in Lebanon the pharmacies strike.

Medicine cannot be found on the shelves.

But a warehouse in Tripoli revealed hidden stocks,

When the protesters stormed and then filmed its supply.

The lifting of subsidies – unknown days away.

How many are hoarding, just to cash in?

But days away also is the resignation

Of the prime minister designate unable to form

A government able to come to consensus.

Eleven months later—back at square one?

This is the message, God, is it even true?

Where is their fear of a social collapse?

If an explosion of anger is pending

Is it only for leverage they hope it to use?

And of the explosion that already happened,

Delays have been placed in front of the court.

Shielded from probe is the intelligence figure,

While parliament debates an immunity lift.

Justice pending—days away.

How many, God?

Also the doubters made fun of Peter,

Wondering when the Messiah would return.

But a thousand years is as a day.

And like a thief, he surely comes.

God this is little to help suffering people,

But should fill politicians with your holy fear.

And then like the widow persistent in nagging

Let those seeking justice shout loud at God’s door.

They do so at parliament.

God, though, will act.

When?

How?

We wonder. We wait. We doubt. We might quit.

But God, give us faith you will not let us go.

Convict us first of contributing sin.

Convict them next, before the law.

God, who is ‘them’?

God, you know—and so do they.

Show them now so they might change.

Show us next, if change they won’t.

This is your message; we trust it is true.

Who needs to hear it?

Lebanon, all.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Americas Christianity Today Published Articles

New Museum Stakes Claim for the Bible in US History—Right Next to the Liberty Bell

Image: Douglas Nottage / American Bible Society

America’s “most historic square mile” got a new resident on the Fourth of July weekend. Joining the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the American Bible Society has opened a $60 million museum to highlight the role of Scripture in the founding of the United States.

“We are leveraging history to advocate for the Bible,” said Alan Crippen, chief of exhibits at the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center (FLDC). “The American story of liberty is unintelligible without knowledge of the Bible, and how it impacted our leaders.”

The new museum gives special space to William Penn and his “holy experiment” of Pennsylvania.

Alongside his Bible, the museum displays an original copy of Penn’s 1683 pamphlet, The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Once More Briefly Debated and Defended. Informing Penn’s vision for governance, the charter of Pennsylvania guaranteed religious freedom and sought peace with the local Lenni-Lenape Native American tribe.

The FLDC’s six exhibits are more than a storehouse of artifacts, though. Interactive exhibits present six foundational American values: faith, liberty, justice, hope, unity, and love. An electronic “lamp” allows visitors to activate additional material, and store memories for retrieval at home.

The exhibits pose additional questions for contemplation or group discussion. The First Amendment section prompts: Do you agree that a just society requires freedom of religion and dissent? Another follows George Whitfield and asks: Do you agree that people can have a direct and personal relationship with God? “Exhibits are meant to be immersive, but not to proselytize,” said Crippen. “This question is meant…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on September 9, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Evangelicals Ask Pope Francis to Help Save Lebanon

Pope Francis, flanked by senior leaders of the various Christian Churches and communities of Lebanon. Kassab is 2nd from right.

Pope Francis has a message to consider from Lebanon’s evangelicals.

“We are not comfortable in our sectarian system, and thank God that we are not a part of the politics that led the country to collapse,” said Joseph Kassab, president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon.

“We are not benefiting, and it hurts us like the vast majority of the Lebanese people.”

Last week the Catholic pontiff invited Lebanon’s Christian denominations to the Vatican for a time of prayer and reflection. Ten patriarchs, bishops, and church leaders gathered, as Francis encouraged them to speak with one voice to the politicians of their nation.

Lebanon has been unable to form a new government since its prior one resigned 11 months ago, following the massive explosion at Beirut’s port. As its Christian, Sunni, Shiite, and Druze political parties wrangle over representation, more than half the population now falls below the poverty line.

Following a default on national debt, personal bank accounts have been largely frozen as the Lebanese lira has lost over 90 percent of its value. The World Bank estimates the economic collapse to be among the world’s three worst in the last 150 years.

“We blame and condemn our Christian and Muslim political leaders equally,” said Kassab.

“We have to say this loudly.”

The nation’s longstanding sectarian system, however, works to recycle these leaders. Lebanon’s president must be a Maronite Christian, its prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and its speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.

The 128 parliament seats are divided evenly between Muslims and Christians, with one reserved for Protestants. But confessional distribution extends into ministerial and civil service positions, including the army, police, and intelligence services.

Each community seeks to maximize its interests, while being careful not to upset the sectarian balance.

“Positions are distributed by religious identity, not qualification,” said Kassab. “Francis called us to push our politicians toward the common good, but we are imprisoned in this system.” Closed door discussions were…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on July 8, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Papal Reflections

God,

The pope asked Lebanon to pray. But also, to reflect.

To ask forgiveness for mistakes, for selfishness, disunity.

Behind closed doors the leaders spoke—the sects, but not the parties.

They shared their fears, frustrations, pain.

But will it make a difference?

God, the early signs are good—no one wants the spirit quenched.

A good will gesture from the Turks: Despite no pay the barges run.

And parliament has cast its vote: Cash assistance for the poor.

The president and cabinet add: The subsidy on meds will stay.

Investigations of the blast: Renewal of summons for elite.

But this time they agree to come: Renewal of hope for justice lost.

No peace without it, said the pope, as others preach through violent means.

A city riots, a bank is stormed—and sanctions readied by the West.

Against all powers the pope proclaimed: The interference now must stop.

And then he left the file domestic—no global conference called to help.

God, why did the pope not call politicians?

They implement all ethereal hope.

Would they agree if he stooped in humility,

Washing the feet of those he rebuked?

God, you know.

Help us reflect on religion in politics.

Help us in balance of nation and sect.

Lebanon’s clerics all came together.

Help us as people to all do the same.

To pray and seek wisdom.

To listen and think.

To act in consensus.

To labor for peace.

God, would you hear the plea of Pope Francis:

Answer the Lebanese cry of distress.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Do Flags Belong in Churches? Pastors Around the World Weigh In.

Image: Illustration by Mallory Rentsch / Source Images: Anthony Choren / Karl Fredrickson / Joseph Pearson / Unsplash

This year, July 4 falls on a Sunday. As American churches consider how to recognize the holiday during the service, we decided to revisit a question CT posed to American church leaders back in 2013. Here’s what their counterparts from 11 different countries have to say in 2021. Answers are arranged from yes to no.

Egypt: Sameh Maurice, senior pastor, Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church, Cairo

Yes, I agree in displaying the flag of my country in the church, the flag of my country only and not other countries, as it is a spiritual and not a political orientation.
The purpose of raising the flag is to keep my heart united with my people in prayer for the salvation of their souls. It’s to remember that I must stand in the gap for my people that they may know the Lord and see the light of the gospel, and to tell my country and my people how much I love them and pray for them.

Jordan: Hani Nuqul, pastor, Evangelical Free Church in Jabal Al Hussein, Amman

I strongly believe that each church building should post the flag on the building and in the sanctuary. As an elder and pastor, we made this decision a few years ago to do so in order to show our loyalty as citizens to the country of Jordan. We believe that by doing so, we are a good example and testimony to others and also following the teachings of the Bible.

As the Evangelical Free Church council, we have taken the decision to put the Jordanian flag in all local churches that belong to the council along with the church logo and flag.

This article was originally published by Christianity Today on July 2, 2021. I contributed additional reporting. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Care for Oil

God,

Our oil supply must come from somewhere.

East or West, or from within.

Some say fuel will surely double

If corruption lifts its hand.

Instead the subsidies are lifted

The rate to pay has doubled—plus.

A slight supply increase to market,

Yet prices surge; who can afford?

Decisions made by the caretaker

Show again that so few care

To push beyond impasse of party

And form a government, to work.

Or could it be they all care deeply?

At zero-sum, no one gives in.

But show us, God, what are the issues?

A blocking third? Tripartite rule?

What must be so strong avoided

To force the people suffering more?

Do they care but for themselves?

Do they fight but for their own?

Bless them, God. And steer them rightly.

But we cast our cares on you.

The oil we need is that for healing.

With prayer, it makes the sick one well.

Can it also restore Lebanon?

God, we hope.

We trust.

We care.

We lay our hands upon the nation—faith is failing, still we try.

We put our hands upon the plowshare.

We get to work at what we can.

We clasp our hands with fellow citizens.

We will not part ‘til all are whole.

Alas, oh God, our hands are empty.

Bless our nation, even so.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Messianic Jews Say ‘Fake Rabbi’ Was Wrong Way to Reach the Ultra-Orthodox

Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source Images: Blake Campbell / Tanner Mardis / Unsplash / Ktoytor / Getty / Envato

How far can one go to “reach the Jews”?

The apostle Paul put himself “under the law” to give the gospel to his Hebrew brethren (1 Cor. 9:20).

Allegedly a Gentile, Michael Elkohen did the same to reach the modern Jews most fastidiously under the law—the Haredim, often known in English as “ultra-Orthodox.”

Approximately 1.2 million Haredim live in Israel, jealously guarding their traditions.

Dressed in black-and-white garb with a hat, long beard, and side curls, in 2011 Elkohen appeared next to an Iranian Christian on MorningStar TV and prayed for a Muslim world revival.

“When Jesus walked the earth, he was Jewish,” Elkohen told the host, Rick Joyner. “The church, the non-Jewish part of the body, is supposed to stir us to jealousy.”

For more than a decade, his would-be jealous Haredi neighbors were completely unaware. To the insular community in the French Hill section of Jerusalem, Elkohen was a beloved rabbi, scribe, and mohel—performing circumcisions.

In April, the Israeli anti-missionary organization Beyneynu sent shockwaves through the Haredi world with a report claiming that Elkohen was in fact a missionary from New Jersey, whose father is buried in a Mennonite cemetery.

“Other anti-Semites attack the Jews as individuals or as a people,” said Tovia Singer, a rabbi and founder of Outreach Judaism. “But the missionaries are attacking the Jewish faith and working to erase it from the planet.”

The spiritual damage is considerable.

Though there is no evidence anyone was converted in Elkohen’s community, Singer claims that the alleged missionary’s manuscripts and religious services are all invalid. And his presence at prayer may have falsely achieved minyan, the necessary quorum of 10 adults, prompting Torah readings that to Haredi Jews now constitute speaking God’s name in vain.

The 42-year-old Elkohen first moved to Israel with his family in 2006, obtaining citizenship after presenting papers as a Jew related to a famous mystical rabbi in Morocco. Having obtained rabbinical ordination through an online Orthodox US institution, in 2014 he went on to study at a yeshiva in the West Bank.

It was then he gained the attention of the anti-missionary organization Yad L’Achim, who confronted him. Confessing his evangelistic purpose, Elkohen replied that he had since “repented” and “chose Judaism.”

A few years later, Elkohen was living quietly among the Haredim when they rallied around him as his wife—who said she was descended from Holocaust survivors—died from cancer. The community raised money to support the husband and five children in need.

But in April, Elkohen’s 13-year-old daughter told classmates about Jesus.

Beyneynu investigated and felt it had to act. There are 30,000 missionaries in Israel, the organization estimates, and 300 organizations dedicated to evangelizing Jews.

Messianic Jews were quick to distance themselves.

Michael Brown, a popular radio host, author, and apologist, circulated statements from Jews for Jesus, Chosen People Ministries, and One for Israel that deplore deception.

“I know of no Messianic Jews who support what he did,” Brown told CT. “We are open and forthright about our faith.” Tsvi Sadan, an author, stated that Elkohen was “probably…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on June 23, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

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Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Lebanon’s Christian Schools Are Full of Muslims—and They Need Help

Image courtesy of NESN

The 2021 graduating class of the National Evangelical School in Nabatieh (NESN) is entirely Shiite Muslim.

While certainly not the image of a typical Christian school in the United States, it is hardly an outlier in Lebanon, where 35 evangelical schools average student bodies that are two-thirds Muslim.

Located 35 miles south of Beirut, Nabatieh originally had a 10 percent Christian population when American Presbyterian missionary Lewis Loe founded the school in 1925. Based in the city’s Christian quarter, NESN drew students from all sects until the civil war drove the once integrated communities apart. From 1978 to 1982, Israeli occupation forced the school to close altogether.

When the city was attacked again during the 2006 war, the school’s bomb shelter gave refuge to frightened children. Relative peace since then has allowed the shelter to become a storage room, but less than 40 Christian families remain in the city. Even so, NESN draws from surrounding villages to maintain a Christian share of 10 percent among its 100-some faculty.

But the new crisis facing Lebanon is financial. Year-end inflation for 2020 was 145 percent, as food prices surged over 400 percent. The World Bank judged the economic collapse to be one of the world’s three worst in the last 150 years.

Teacher salaries have lost nearly 90 percent of their value.

Three years ago, NESN’s 100-foot Christmas tree was Lebanon’s largest. This year—as debt equaled the entire operational budget minus teacher salary—the school could not afford even the Charlie Brown version.

A highlight of the school calendar, Christian elements are welcomed by the local Shiite population—including its substantial number of Hezbollah-affiliated families, said principal Shadi El-Hajjar.

Since he assumed leadership in 2013, the student body of 1,400 has more than doubled.

“We teach compassion, forgiveness, and love of enemies,” Hajjar said, “but as culture and practice, not religion.

“This makes us unique, and draws people to the school.”

It was not always this way.

Decades of appreciative tolerance…

This article was originally published on June 16, 2021, at Christianity Today. Please click here to read the full text.

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Americas Christianity Today Published Articles

The American Mosque: More Suburban, Less Conversion

Image: ISPU, US Mosque 2020 Survey

The American mosque increasingly resembles the American church.

New data released in the US Mosque Survey 2020 reveals a plateau of conversions, a shift to the suburbs, and a challenge with “unmosqued” youth.

“Muslims and their mosques are becoming more integrated into American society,” said Ihsan Bagby, the lead investigator, “and more adjusted to the American environment.”

Released every 10 years, the survey aims to comprehensively dispel misconceptions about the locus of Muslim community in the United States.

How might the findings guide American evangelicals?

Begin with the contrast: the increase in the Muslim equivalent of church planting.

The survey counts 2,769 mosques in the US, an increase of 31 percent since the 2010 report. The prior decade had a growth rate of 74 percent, with 1,209 mosques counted in the 2000 report.

They increasingly appreciate a nice backyard.

The share of mosques in large cities has dropped from 17 percent in 2010 to 6 percent in 2020, while the share in small towns has dropped from 20 percent to 6 percent. The survey found that 8 in 10 Muslims now live in a residential or suburban area.

“As we begin to share the same neighborhood, engaging the Muslim community is no longer just the domain of missionary specialists,” said Mike Urton, the associate director of Immigrant Mission, a ministry of the Evangelical Free Church of America.

“It is now the domain of the local church.”

The now mostly suburban Muslims also “tithe” similarly to their Christian neighbors. Including contributions toward operating expenses and the obligatory zakat charitable giving to the poor, the survey calculated…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on June 14, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

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Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Comfort, Comfort

God,

“Comfort, comfort,” wrote Isaiah.

The time of hardship has now passed.

Gentle words to heal a people.

A highway straightened for their God.

God, these words are needed now.

The suffering is not complete.

In the past you punished double recompense for all their sins.

How much more is due for Lebanon?

For civil war, corruption, blast?

Is a call to repentance just more added burden?

Or the only way forward to peace and relief?

Comfort.

For want of it the people flail – strikes and protests, cries for help.

Lawyers. Doctors. Pharmacists. Army.

Even the gauntlet of sanction-barred oil.

“Surely the nations are a drop in the bucket.”

“Lebanon insufficient for your altar fire.”

God is this your vision for our ancient nation?

Kindling and ashes; a place to be burned?

God, “you bring the rulers to nothing.”

Is that what has happened to Lebanon, too?

So many grow tired as they fight and bicker.

God, may it be that they strive for the good.

But certainly no one has come up with answers.

A government absent for more than ten months.

Comfort.

It must be true. It must be somewhere.

It is not here. It is not real.

Many say so.

But no, we cannot let that be the conclusion.  

“Hope in the Lord, and renew your strength.”

Maybe this is the secret of doctors and lawyers,

Finding resolve amid hopeless despair.

God, they are trying. God, they keep striving.

Will you honor their efforts? Make everything right?

God, when you come, you come with your power.

But yet like a shepherd, tending the flock.

Do I want comfort? Would I rather anger?

Both are made perfect in your promised help.

When, God?

What now?

Where is that highway made straight for the king?

We cannot run, we grow too weary.

We barely walk, we grow too faint.

“Comfort, comfort.”

“Your sin has been paid for.”

Help Lebanon know this.

Help Lebanon heal.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Algeria Returns a Historic Church, But Stops Christian Worship at 20 Others

Image: Zineb Tadj / EyeEm / Getty Images
Oran, Algeria

Algerian Christians finally have something to celebrate.

Amid a rash of church closures the past two years, the North African nation’s Council of State returned a historic worship site in Mostaganem, a port city on the Mediterranean coast, to the Algerian Protestant Church (EPA).

The EPA loaned the building, which dates to the French colonial era, to the Ministry of Health in 1976. But in 2012, when the site’s medical clinic changed locations, the local governor gave the facility to an Islamic charitable association.

The EPA sued, and the case was decided in its favor in 2019.

That year, however, marked an escalation against Protestant churches. Three of Algeria’s largest congregations were shut down, and the Mostaganem authorities failed to implement the court decision.

Now they have.

But with 20 other churches ordered to cease activities—and 13 sealed completely—Algerian Christians remain cautious.

“Just because we have the keys,” said Nourredine Benzid, general secretary of the EPA, “doesn’t mean the case is over.”

Benzid’s Source of Life Church in Makouda was among those closed in 2019. Located in the mountainous Tizi Ouzou district, the area is home to many of the nation’s estimated 100,000 Christians. By contrast, the Mostaganem church was…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on June 10, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Whiplash

God,

I drive down the road—to the left and the right

Are lines of the frustrated waiting for gas.

I know, for I was in it.

I sit in my house, and I wait for the beep—

Electricity switches too often to count.

A constant reminder the state can’t supply

The power that is needed to turn on the lights.

And now I am told alternate generators

Will now also ration four hours each day.

I groan, for I am helpless.

But what of my money still trapped in the bank?

The news gives me whiplash on top of despair.

The court order killed the release of deposits

At 3900, already unfair.

Must I go quickly and take what is offered

Before 1500 is all I can get?

But then steps in the president and central bank governor

To restore the rate that I previously cursed.

And the next day a promise of $400 dollars—

To withdraw every month, and double if black.

What do I care of the court’s independence?

I need back my money; the court’s on its own.

I sigh, for I remember.

Sixteen years ago: My prime minister killed

When a bomb blew a hole through downtown Beirut.

And in subsequent months other figures were added.

The list of the victims grew ever too long.

Of course, I am waiting for justice forthcoming

In the blast that has leveled near half of Beirut.

But the UN tribunal assigned all the old cases

Has run out of money: The bankrupted state cannot pay its bills.

I read, but get no comfort:

150 years.

Among the three worst collapses.

Lebanon falls.

Our economy gone.

God, where are you?

God, do you care?  

I pray, but find no answer.

I hurt, what can I do?

I wait, I know you’re faithful.

I sing, despite it all.

I have life. I have breath. I have family. Friends.

The sun rises each morning.

The mountains stand tall.

Make me like them, God.

Your light, in the darkness.

Your strength, for the weak.

I am weak; my nation weaker.

Give us a government.

Give us your hope.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Christianity Today Europe Published Articles

Fortress Europe: As Islam Expands, Should the US Imitate the ‘Christian’ Continent?

Image: loeskieboom / iStock / Getty Images

Within three decades, Muslims may comprise 14 percent of Europe.

The face of the historically Christian continent, tallied at 5 percent Muslim in 2016, may dramatically change by 2050 if high migration patterns hold.

And as Muslim families have a birth rate one child higher than the rest of the continent, the Pew Research Center projects nearly 1 in 5 people will be Muslim in the United Kingdom (17%), France (18%), and Germany (20%). Sweden is projected to become 30 percent Muslim.

And Austria, with its 20 percent projection, is on guard. The majority-Catholic nation recently published an online Islam Map, to identify mosques and other centers of politicized religion.

According to European religion experts, however, one-third of European Muslims do not practice their faith.

Conversely, this suggests that two-thirds of Muslims believe in and practice Islam. Contrast this with the median figure of 18 percent of Western Europeans (across 15 nations) who attend church at least monthly and the median figure of 27 percent who believe in God according to the Bible.

Could the fear of some European Christians be plausible: an eventual Eurabia?

Or is it Islamophobia to say so?

Or, to the contrary, should Americans look across the ocean and consider French separatism laws and Swiss burqa bans in pursuit of a shared secularism?

For concerned evangelicals, Bert de Ruiter has his own questions—about their own faith.

“If Islam is taking over Europe, is that a problem?” asked the European Evangelical Alliance’s consultant on Muslim-Christian relations. “Will God suddenly be in a panic?” Muslims will…

This article was originally published on June 3, 2021, at Christianity Today. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: 50-50

God,

What are the chances, on so many fronts?

Must Lebanon gamble, just to survive?

Half of its medicines are still stuck in port,

Awaiting the dollars that few can obtain.

But a new plan has promised depositor access:

Up to $50,000 can soon be withdrawn.

The caveats, many. The confidence, slim.

But hope on horizon? We need it, to live.

Slowly the country is starting to heal –

Near half herd immunity has now been achieved.

Infection rates dropping. Long lines for vaccines.

But many wait reticent. The trust level, low.

Lebanon does little to win them, God.

Can they trust—alone—in you?

It is not your design.

You are our refuge, when so few are helping.

You are our rock, when so few have hope.

But you bid us go forward and trust one another.

You bid us to love, to honor, to serve.

Trust not in princes, your wisdom has spoken.

But you ask us to pray that the prince does his job.

Many are trying, God. Bless them and strengthen.

What is their percentage? Only you know.

But you once promised Abraham you would spare Gomorrah,

If only ten righteous therein could be found.

Is this true of Beirut? Of Tripoli? Sidon?

What are the chances?

Do you count me, as one?

I, too, must repent, for the sake of my nation.

Hold not against us the sins we have wrought.

Yes, let loose the money. Keep pharmacies stocked.

Vaccinate many. But three things we need:

Justice.

Mercy.

Humility.

God, on your scale, am I 50-50?

God, in your love, I have no cause to doubt:

“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

Leave not my nation. May we trust in you.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.