Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Pitiful Disorder

God,

Some rallied for the criminal they called instead a hero.

But better than a label is the sentiment it summons:

Sympathy.

In need of cash, he stormed the bank and claimed his own deposit.

Knowing he would be refused he came prepared with leverage:

Gasoline.

He doused the floor and showed his gun and threatened all surrounding.

With dollars gained he then went home. But honor, conscience led him:

Surrender.

But now the court wants money back. No copycat proceedings.

It’s right, and good, but wrong, and sad. It sums up Lebanon proper:

Desperation.

Another problem yet confronts, though only Beirut suffered.

The internet ran out of fuel. The head, who warned, then threatened:

Resignation.

A civil servant, we are told, forgot to sign a paper.

But new supplies have been obtained. Now May the expiration:

Foreboding.

Still—deals in place with guarantees are now becoming formal.

Jordan. Egypt. Syria. The promise is appealing:

Electricity.

And with the dollars spent to drive the lira appreciating,

A budget pending, cabinet to meet—might we see unexpected:

Recovery?

God, we place all in your hands. Come to the man in mercy.

Keep our data, WhatsApp calls; alternatives are mostly:

Prohibitive.

And will the power come back on? Reforms and bailout happen?

Few of us trust promised gains. Like bright lights, reason glaring:

Corruption.

You God, in all, the opposite. You’re love, you’re strength, forgiving.

Our hope: In you. Not wealth. Not sect. Alone, even friends and family:

Deceiving.

For Lebanon’s problems, enlighten those with influence and position.

But your word gives us answers true. The only expectation:

Obedience.

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
Current Events

The 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Follow Jesus in 2022

Image: Illustration by Mallory Rentsch / Source Image: Benne Ochs / Getty Images

A thousand more Christians were killed for their faith last year than the year before.

A thousand more Christians were detained.

Six hundred more churches were attacked or closed.

And Afghanistan is the new No. 1, according to the 2022 World Watch List (WWL), the latest annual accounting from Open Doors of the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous and difficult to be a Christian.

“This year’s findings indicate seismic changes in the persecution landscape,” said David Curry, president of Open Doors USA.

Since Open Doors began its tally in 1992, North Korea has led the ranking. But since Afghanistan’s takeover by the Taliban last August, Afghan believers have had to leave their country or relocate internally. Many lost everything they had, notes the report, while house churches were closed in their wake.

“Before the Taliban, it was not great, but it was good,” said one evacuated Afghan, requesting anonymity in hopes that he may one day return. “[Now] Christians are living in fear, in secret, totally underground.”

Open Doors is quick to note the displacement of North Korea to No. 2 does not reflect an improvement in religious freedom there. On the contrary, a new anti–reactionary thought law has resulted in an increase of Christian arrests and house church closures.

Overall, 360 million Christians live in nations with high levels of persecution or discrimination. That’s 1 in 7 Christians worldwide, including 1 in 5 believers in Africa, 2 in 5 in Asia, and 1 in 15 in Latin America. Last year, for the first time in 29 years of tracking…

This article was originally published by Christianity Today on January 19, 2022. Please click here to read the full text, and here for the Arabic version.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: A Godly Shame

God,

Cabinet will soon be back—with everyone embarrassed?

Since October it has stalled, to shelve the justice leading

Investigations in the blast. They failed (for now) removal,

And yield instead to IMF, exchange rate, and the suffering.

The budget now can be discussed, prime minister the victor.

But lingers still is his “two days” that promised soon resumption.

And president, too, played a role in pressuring the duo.

But national dialogue fell flat—his plea was seen irrelevant.

How does the union rate their strike? City shutdown helpful?

Annoyance won, or sympathy? No revolution followed.

The foreign powers maneuver still. America dropped its sanctions

To win the flow of Egypt’s gas. Good, but Syrian backtrack?

And UAE joins Al Saoud in promised French initiative—

That since its start has been ignored despite extensive effort.

God, what to do when plans dissolve? When reputation tarnished?

A king disgraced can rally still, or humbly seek redemption.

Some of old turned from the Lord. Some saw—in him—revival.

But none have fallen yet so far, though Lebanon is collapsing.

So many people wish them ill, but many still beholden.

Yet they continue, carry on. Their sect, their interest, nation.

It is a sacrifice to stay within the spotlight. Surely

There is a principle each seeks—with politics conflicting.

God remove the obstacles, and them, if they the problem.

God empower them otherwise, and lead them to solution.

Cabinet again will meet, and now can take decisions.

Give wisdom, God. The room for wrong has also now expanded.

Let godly shame descend upon all parties which deserve it.

Embarrassment can drive us to your arms in seeking cover.

Wipe our tears, God. Lift our head. Remind us of your image.

Tarnished, yes, but you restore. Trade ashes for our blessing.

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: Explosive Talk

God,

A few days late, the outburst came.

Not from the top, but in-law.

The Christian-Shiite partnership, he said: No longer working.

It brought the president his post.

But what else is accomplished?

Reform the state, corruption probe? No—just sectarian interest.

Will cost us seats, and me the chair.

But principle must triumph.

Yet the alliance did not break. Just leverage? Pressure? Posturing?

Militia head in turn took aim.

He fired at the Saudis.

The king the terrorist-in-chief. A verbal up-the-ante.

All others rallied round the cause,

As each his own interprets.

Preserve relations. Resistance arms. A larger deal coming?

So God we ask what you prefer:

A smiling false consensus,

Or knuckles bared, frustration aired, with right and wrong debated?

If politics an ugly game, real issues on the table.

If politics deceitful game,

Behind closed doors the answer comes—and dressed up as solution.

Which one Lebanon, oh God?

Send to us your mercy.

Make politics an honest game. Represent the people.

In compromise, accountable.

In seeking posts, transparent.

The national above the sect, with individual freedom.

But not too much? The sect also

Reflects a true communal.

God, how is this puzzle solved? Lebanon: Conundrum.

So let each segment seek your will.

Be humble. Serve the other.

God, please bless the pure in heart. The peacemakers, your children.

Some dedicate their time to prayer.

Some enter the arena.

God, let their light shine. Kingdom come. Peace—no more explosions.

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.


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.

Categories
Christianity Today Europe Published Articles

Interview with Oleksandr Turchynov, Coordinator of Ukraine’s Conservative Movement

(Photo by Thomas Koehler/Photothek via Getty Images)

CT: How do you interpret Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions on the border, and how likely is a full invasion?

Turchynov: It is rather difficult to interpret, and it is even more difficult to treat him as someone whose actions can be explained with ordinary civilized values.

One aspect involves political and economic interests, such as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. At the same time, Putin is raising the stakes as a tactic, issuing ultimatums. His approach serves to further polarization and undermines both NATO and the European Union (EU) concerning the expansion of membership.

It is kind of a game, growing worse for everyone. But if the West and Ukraine were to consolidate their actions, Putin wouldn’t be able to prevail. Full-scale invasion is an extremely dangerous project—mainly for Putin himself. But he is capable of making inadequate decisions.

CT: How have discussions with US President Joe Biden changed the situation, if at all? How do you view the response from the West?

Turchynov: One of Putin’s purposes was a glorious moment of triumph by sitting with President Biden as equals at the table of negotiations. But sometimes it is necessary to talk to a terrorist, to distract him from his acts of terror.

Some Ukrainians wanted to hear a different response from the White House, for example by…

This article was originally published by Christianity Today, on January 4, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Europe Published Articles

On Ukraine-Russia Border, Evangelicals Endure as Invasion Looms

Image: Alexander Reka / TASS / Getty Images
A Christmas light installation in Luhansk, Ukraine, by a monument to the 2000th anniversary of the Nativity of Christ, on December 24, 2021

Ukraine celebrates Christmas twice, honoring both the Eastern and Western church calendars. Yet this season, Pentecostals spent the week leading up to December 25 in prayer and fasting while Baptists did the same from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day.

The reason: tens of thousands of Russian troops amassed on the border, threatening a full invasion.

Russian-backed separatists have held control of the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine since 2014. This past November, the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) declared Donbas “the area of Europe where the church suffers the most.” In total the conflict has killed over 14,000 people and displaced 2 million of the region’s 5 million people.

“Prayer is our spiritual weapon,” said Igor Bandura, vice president of the Baptist Union of Ukraine. “God can undo what the politicians are planning.”

This past Friday, US President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that any further invasion of Ukraine would result in “a heavy price to pay”; Putin replied that any new sanctions would trigger a complete breakdown in relations. On Monday, Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the US and its allies would “respond decisively” to Russian aggression; Zelensky signaled appreciation for the “unwavering support.”

Trying to help years ago from the Russian side, Vitaly Vlasenko was labeled a spy.

Traveling 650 miles south from Moscow to Luhansk, Ukraine, at his own expense, the now–general secretary of the Russian Evangelical Alliance (REA) waded into a war zone.

By 2018, separtist leaders in Donbas had crafted laws to re-register churches, ostensibly under the principle of freedom of conscience and assembly. But two years prior, authorities in Luhansk declared Baptists and Pentecostals a security threat. Pastors had been murdered; churches were seized.

“Our brothers in Christ in Ukraine are crying out: ‘Why don’t you pressure Russia to stop this aggression?’” said Vlasenko. “We tell them we are a small minority with no standing and no clear information, and officially Russia is not a part of this conflict.”

It does not go over well, he admits. Relations between evangelicals in the neighboring nations have become strained, and some assumed the worst of his December 2018 trip to speak with rebel authorities about the registration process.

Only the KGB-connected could get access, Vlasenko heard.

In reality, Vlasenko said the visit was arranged through prior connections with the Russian Orthodox Church metropolitan in Luhansk. Your church received registration, the REA leader told his Orthodox counterpart; where is our Christian solidarity?

Without registration, churches were disconnected from the gas and electricity grid. All remaining evangelical churches were operating illegally, but some still had use of their facilities. But now it was winter, and cold.

The metropolitan agreed the situation was wrong and facilitated contact with the religious affairs official. Vlasenko was told registration would be given to all who completed procedures. He passed on the information to Ukrainian colleagues. But today, he said, relations are at a standstill.

“I understand they are in a difficult situation,” Vlasenko said. “Most churches have their headquarters in Kyiv, so how can they accept registration and explain this to their brothers in the [Ukrainian] capital?”

But Donbas churches face a choice: Continue to suffer, or continue in ministry. Vlasenko stays neutral, as he cannot advise them as a Russian.

Religious freedom problems in Donbas listed by the EEA include…

This article was originally published by Christianity Today on January 4, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Start Talking

God,

What to do when none know what?

In some ways you keep going.

Repair a pipeline. Seize more pills.

Enjoy the new year’s party.

But habits old continue too.

Contribute few solutions.

Freeze appointments. Tweet abroad.

Call comprehensive dialogue.

Surely it is needed, God.

The contents known for decades.

But less explosive than assumed,

Once intervention softened.

Escalation? Status quo?

The former had been promised.

Wisdom needed. What would help?

In the end, more talking?

Maybe, God. Decentralize.

Ta’ef said. Still waiting.

Order defense. One command.

Resistance. Army. People.

Reaction yet is muted still.

Responses mild, yet framing.

Partition feared? A UN role?

Accusing or agenda.

Within this, how best to pray?

Bless the president, trying.

Give discernment. Moral strength.

Break the deadlock, winsome.

Cabinet leader also bless.

Give compromise, consensus.

Virtues also. Bend don’t break.

Help him to muddle forward.

And speaker needs your blessing too.

With ally, many blame them.

Defend the sect. Defend the right.

Let justice come, include them.

But God it could be all are wrong.

Elections, now, are scheduled.

Replace them all. Or rearrange.

The nation needs renewal.

Your will, however, probes within.

Wants men, not just their policy.

Love them wholly. Sanctify.

Reflect in them your image.

And through them, God, or yet without

Bless Lebanon and its people.

Refugee and citizen.

Lift up, and prove your goodness.

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

The Secret to Deradicalizing Militants Might be Found in Middle Eastern Churches

Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source images: Sohaib Al Kharsa / Unsplash / Abid Katib / Staff / Getty

A Muslim man walked into the offices of a Christian pastor whose congregation in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley has been serving Syrian refugees since the outbreak of civil war.

“I’ve hated you for the past eight years,” the Muslim said, “and I’ve tried to turn my community against you. But three months ago, it was your American doctors who treated me and paid for my hospital stay.

“We hate these people,” he continued, “yet they come here and show us love. Tell me the time of your services; I want to follow Jesus. How great is your Christianity!”

This story, told to CT in October by the pastor, who asked that their names not be used for security reasons, is remarkable. But it is not unique. Evangelical ministers in the Middle East readily recount conversion narratives of the most militant, radicalized Muslims. A second pastor has described how a Syrian confessed that he started coming to church to kill him. Now a believer, the man serves other refugees as a member of the congregation. A third says his once-small Christian fellowship has grown to more than 1,500 largely due to converted refugees. Perhaps as many as 10 percent of them are former extremists.

These accounts and others like them have led Scott Gustafson, a PhD candidate with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s Extreme Beliefs program in Amsterdam, to a realization: Evangelical Arab ministry succeeds where millions of dollars of security-based solutions have failed in turning militant Muslims away from violence.

“No one strategizes: Let’s deradicalize the extremists,” he said. “But it is a demonstrable side effect.” In the diverse academic field trying to find secular pathways out of extremism, this is…

This article was originally published in the December 2021 print edition of Christianity Today. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Mehry Christmas

God,

You promise joy, and joy you give. But how can we say it to others?

Sometimes ourselves we struggle to find.

But it is there.

In the return home. In the familiar carol.

In the small splurge we no more can afford.

In the smile of our children.

These are true, and they are good. Even when absent, we know they are real.

Just as you are.

So should we shout out: Merry Christmas!

Or whisper like a secret shared?

The in-between irony, a good middle ground,

The great incarnation for lives that are tired.

Worn out. Tattered. Shabby. Used.

Mehry Christmas.

These also are real. And true, even when we believe they are absent.

Then, as now.

Joy. Inbreaking. A world of drab.

Much we can do in our efforts to fix it.

A deal to trade judge for six parliament seats.

And then meet together, a loan to secure.

Even the nations, united, come visit.

Encouragement. Warnings. More of the same.

God only you know if the rumors are real.

But even when absent, the plan behind doors.

Not yours, God.

You place it on a lampstand. You shout it from the roof.

Go. Tell it on the mountain.

And you are with us, to the end of the age.

God, maybe a deal would fix things. Maybe it got foiled.

You free us, God, to dive right in.

But yet, to float above.

Bless the hands grubby from grime and from sweat. From trying to budge the unbending.

But chastise, God, the dirty.

Your counsel hard—to cut it off—lest two-handed Hades await them.

For too many, hell is here now.

It is real. But it is not true.

You are with us.

Joy.

It deserves to be whispered.

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
Personal

2021 Christianity Today Global Church Recap

Every year, Christianity Today publishes lists of its top stories. Mine contributed to the following categories:

The Global Church in 2021: CT’s Top 20 International Articles

I offered 7 of them, listed in chronological order:

That last one was also included in this list: 13 CT News Stories That Made Us Happy in 2021, along with:

One of my articles was included in a roundup for No. 8 in this list: Top 10 CT News Stories of the Year (and another at No. 1, Afghanistan, listed above):

And finally, editors gathered some of the less-clicked articles they re-commend for readership. CT’s Stories of 2021 That You May Have Missed (honoring Lebanon, I’m glad they picked this one):

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Iran’s House Churches Are Not Illegal, Says Supreme Court Justice (Updated)

Image: Courtesy of Article 18

Update: The 9 converts to Christianity made eligible for release by November’s Supreme Court ruling remain in prison for their faith, according to Mansour Borji, advocacy director for Article 18. The judge had ruled that promotion of Christianity through house churches is not illegal.

But another case is contributing to the establishment of precedent.

A revolutionary court prosecutor in the city of Dezful, 450 miles southwest of Tehran, declined to bring charges against eight converts to Christianity. Four were arrested in April, with four others later added to the case.

Hojjat Khalaf, Esmaeil Narimanpour, Alireza Varak-Shah, Mohammad Ali Torabi, Alireza Zadeh, Masoud Nabi, Mohammad Kayidgap, and Mohsen Zadeh were facing criminal accusations for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The judge provided a written explanation on November 30. According to Middle East Concern, he stated that although apostasy is a crime according to Islamic sharia, it is not an offense according to the laws of Iran. Borji said the decision was unrelated to the recent Supreme Court ruling (below), as this case had not yet even made it to court.

“The prosecutor was simply not convinced with made up charges by intelligence officers with no shred of evidence,” he said. “But his reasoning is very important.”

This update was added by Christianity Today on December 21, 2021, for an article originally published on December 3. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Jostling Leaders

God,

Some say they are a den of thieves. Some say that they are rivals.

Side by side for years on end. At odds, cooperating.

They carry burdens of their sect. Principles, and interests.

They hold together Lebanon. They keep it from uniting.

For now is snubbed the president. Last year the prime minister.

Soon the speaker gets his turn. Once, anon, militia.

But God, within them, is there truth? Are some striving rightly?

Are they foiled, time again? Or take turns as the victim?

Your image rests within them all. But sin, alongside, struggles.

Bless their fellowship. Enrich. And bind them to the nation.

Or break it, God. Where lies deceit, replace the ill with honest.

Will youth exceed the gains of age? Or double-down corruption?

But yes or no, continues on the world and downward spiral.

The government will still not meet. Paralysis, inertia.

From schemes abroad, or schemes at home, the ordinary suffer.

Do they protect themselves or sect? Honor, virtue, homeland?

God, our prayers are for their good. But hope is misdirected.

Our trust can only be in you. All others simply steward.

So make them faithful, God. Proficient. Governance is service.

But make us servants of your will. Your kingdom—here—yet spiritual.

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.

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 Middle East Published Articles

Trump or Netanyahu? American Evangelicals Support Israel, Yet Signs of Change

Image: Frédéric Soltan / Corbis / Getty Images

In the public spat between Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, who would American evangelicals support? A new survey suggests it might be the Israeli.

Polled shortly after the Gaza war last May, it also reveals a substantial generational gap in level of support for Israel and a lack of impact by pastors from their pulpits.

And it happens to release this week, following Trump’s explosive comments.

In excerpts from a recently released interview, the former president blasted the former prime minister for his statement of congratulations to Joe Biden after the 2020 election.

“Nobody did more for Bibi. And I liked Bibi. I still like Bibi,” stated Trump in an expletive-laced diatribe, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “But I also like loyalty … Bibi could have stayed quiet. He has made a terrible mistake.”

Netanyahu responded with praise for Trump. But in noting a friendship with Joe Biden, he also honored the longstanding partnership between the US and Israel.

During his presidency, Trump moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, acknowledged Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and negotiated with five Muslim-majority nations to normalize relations with the Jewish state.

American evangelicals joined Netanyahu in appreciation. According to a new online poll surveying a multiethnic panel of approximately 1,000 self-identified evangelical and born-again Christians, 35 percent say they became more supportive of Israel because of Trump’s policies. Only 11 percent became more supportive of Palestinians, while 53 percent had no change.

And overall, 68 percent of American evangelicals believe the Jewish people today have the right to the land of Israel, by virtue of the covenant God made with Abraham which “remains intact today.” (About 23% say they don’t know.)

The survey, conducted by professors from the University of North Carolina–Pembroke in conjunction with Barna Group, was released today but conducted in July, well before public knowledge of Trump’s falling out with Netanyahu.

The 15-year Israeli prime minister scored a 74 percent favorable rating, based on the share of evangelicals who gave him a score of 6 or greater on a 10-point scale. One in five (22%) gave him the top rating possible. The survey did not include a direct comparison. But given the fact that it included…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on December 15, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Sunday Worship Comes to the Gulf

Image: Walter Bibikow / Getty Images
Etihad Towers and Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) wants to create a more friendly financial climate. Christians, say local evangelical leaders, are among the unintended beneficiaries.

“The business of Dubai is business, even though they are committed Muslims,” said Jim Burgess, evangelical representative to the Gulf Churches Fellowship, referencing the UAE’s economic hub. “But worshiping on Sunday—our traditional day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus—will be a great blessing.”

Seeking better alignment with international markets, the Emirates is adopting a Monday to Friday workweek. The weekend had previously begun with Friday, in deference to Muslim communal prayers. Christians aligned their corporate worship accordingly.

“It is a bit strange to worship on a Friday, but you get used to it,” said Hrayr Jebejian, general secretary of the Bible Society of the Gulf, who lives in Kuwait. “The [UAE’s] reasons are purely financial, but for Christians it will be like going back to normal.”

Of the UAE’s 10 million people, 88 percent are migrant workers. The Pew Research Center estimates 13 percent are Christians, coming largely from India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, in addition to Western expats.

It is necessary to keep and attract good talent. Alongside officially secular Lebanon and Turkey, the UAE is now the third Middle Eastern nation to keep the Western calendar. But it comes with a tweak. All public sector employees will be dismissed at…

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

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Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Naturalization

God,

All men need a country. All must work to live.

Their dignity dependent. Your will from Eden on.

But amid contradictions some exploit the cracks that appear in the system and put risk the whole.

Weapons or oxygen?

The choice itself speaks.

News must be reported. Faithfulness and truth.

Sympathy, not bias. Justice, your concern.

But some want to silence while others combine their activist spirit with paper and pen.

Cannabis or coverage?

Which flag was rightly waived?

The worth of lollars doubled. The dollar rose in kind.

It helped the locked deposits. Inflation robs them all.

But can any policy balance the needs of the impoverished citizen and financial health?

Macro or micro?

Failure, apart.

God give Palestinians their every right. Marshal the people upon their behalf.

But Lebanese also are squeezed in their struggle. Suffering, scarcity—solidarity still.

Protect the freedom to tell the hard stories. Expose selfish interest and violence for cause.

Provide all provisions for the newly made poor. Set right the nation for all who reside.

Do not let wrong be naturalized. It has for far too long.

East of Eden there is sin. Let your grace overpower.

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.

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.

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Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Coup Reversal Divides Sudan’s Christians

Courtesy: Susanna al-Nour

As a young mother in Sudan, Susanna al-Nour struggled like many others with rising prices and shortages of goods. International support pledged after the 2019 revolution was slow to materialize. The government struggled to disburse promised aid. And tribal groups protesting in the east were blocking access to essential imports coming through the Red Sea city of Port Sudan.

And then this October things got worse.

Citing divisions among politicians, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the general heading Sudan’s mixed military-civilian Sovereign Council, launched a coup against the popularly selected prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok.

Phone and internet connections were cut, Hamdok was detained, and security forces raided neighborhoods to arrest supporters of his government, roughing up others. Thousands poured into the streets, including Nour’s husband, an evangelist and pastor’s assistant at Faith Baptist Church in the Soba area of the capital, Khartoum.

“With a small child, I couldn’t go because of the tear gas,” she said. “But it was necessary to demonstrate against the regime.”

Sudan’s Christians were then solidly in support of Hamdok, sources told CT. Two months later, sources no longer speak in consensus.

At the time, enraged and without communication, the nation went into a standstill. Nour’s online studies through a seminary in Lebanon became impossible. So did her husband’s student ministry—as most young people were marching to reverse the coup.

Back in 2019, Hamdok quickly became the symbol of the revolution. Chosen by consensus among the political and revolutionary groups that deposed the 30-year Islamist dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, his leadership was one of the few unifying factors in a rapidly fraying partnership between civilians and the military.

And then he wasn’t…

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

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Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Iran’s House Churches Are Not Illegal, Says Supreme Court Justice

Image: Courtesy of Article 18.

Currently at least 20 Christians are jailed in Iran because their faith was deemed a threat to the Islamic republic’s national security. Of the more than 100 Iranian believers imprisoned since 2012, all have faced similar charges.

But a recent decision by a Supreme Court justice gives hope to them all.

“Merely preaching Christianity … through family gatherings [house churches] is not a manifestation of gathering and collusion to disrupt the security of the country, whether internally or externally,” stated the judge, Seyed-Ali Eizadpanah.

“The promotion of Christianity and the formation of a house church is not criminalized in law.”

Two years ago, nine converts from the non-Trinitarian Church of Iran in Rasht, 200 miles northeast of Tehran near the Caspian Sea, were arrested in raids on their homes and church.

Sentenced to a five-year prison term in October 2019, Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Behnam Akhlaghi, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, and Mohammad Vafadar are now eligible for release.

The ruling, announced November 24, is “unprecedented,” according to multiple Iranian Christians and international advocates.

“The judge’s main argument is what we have been saying for years,” said Mansour Borji, advocacy director for Article 18, a UK-based organization promoting freedom of religion in Iran that tallied the cases noted above from available public records.

“But it astonished us to hear it at such a high level.” It also cuts against the grain of international understanding. The US State Department’s latest religious freedom report on Iran…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on December 3, 2021. Please click here for the full text.

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Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Questioning Guest

My apologies for failing to write prayers for Lebanon these past two weeks. I was traveling and steeped in the issues of another land of which I will soon report.

Returning a few days ago, I am not yet sufficiently reengaged to offer a prayer this week either. So instead I will post a prayer I recently encountered, with the permission of the author who calls into question the whole enterprise of praying for a nation:

I believe that calling the church to pray for Lebanon is a beautiful act of faith that contains potential for dangerous theological assumptions. I graciously ask you to take a theological walk with me as I seek to unpack some dangers of the zeal to pray for Lebanon.

Please click here if you would like to read his thoughts further. But in the meanwhile, consider his prayer of conclusion, and pray along if you agree.


Let us pray for forgiveness. We have been terrible stewards of this beautiful piece of God’s creation.

Let us pray for justice and mercy. May God intervene to punish the wicked and lift the oppressed.

Let us pray for strength to live faithfully in these turbulent times. Life is tough. The future is frightening. May God remind us that whether we live or die, we do so for Him and His glory.

Let us pray for strength to carry the cross. May we be ready to lose all things in acts of love and mercy for all those around us.

Let us pray to know God’s will. Even as I write these words the Lord is bringing goodness out of this evil. May He help us to see with His eyes and be His hands to the tired people of this land.

The Lord is good. Come and taste that He is good. Blessed are the people who rely on Him.

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.

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: Legal Madness

God,

The call to come is “madness,”

The tourist board has said.

I love you though you’re crazy.

But is love recompensed?

So many have grown weary.

The love of nation, cold.

But can love still continue

When pain is the return?

For madness is the answer

To justice that is void.

Unless sanity, dependent,

Just blames the other, whole.

The judge avoids recusal,

So his judge suffers suit.

Your judge is fully biased,

No, your judge is at fault.

At least the law, ascendent,

Is better than more strife.

But bullets past still linger.

The court is paralyzed.

And so too is the cabinet,

Not meeting once again.

We cannot solve our problems,

Until our problems solved.

God, your wisdom needed—

Is found in synonym:

Madness, like to foolish,

Your way, rejected, pfft.

How can the meek be blessed?

The powerless, of power?

God, they can fix nothing.

We know because we are.

We want the good, the honest.

Corruption, we receive.

Or will our problems vanish,

If humble we become?

What can we do to change things,

When doing grasps at straws?

So should we try not doing?

Just sit: You fight for us.

Then come God, do your bidding.

Just spare me and my kin.

We are the ten left, righteous.

The remnant who you save.

This is the pride that binds you.

We rest in self-deceit.

So what then, God? Forgive us.

But still we flail, lost.

What can save our nation?

What can save my soul?

God, we have no answers.

Distraught, or else aloof.

One, to void surrendered.

Two, self-anesthetized.

Give us hope, our savior.

Your love is true, complete.

Is with us in our weakness.

Gives strength to stand, and see

The goodness still existent.

The honest in the land.

Promote them, in your power.

Preserve it, in our hearts.

The world sees this as madness.

The legal mind, a mess.

My rights: I fight not for them.

They soil the towel with feet.

Still God, with expectations

We wait in hope your will.

In this life or the next one,

But please, let it be both.

Or rather in your kindness,

Excuse us in the next.

Yes, me and my kinsman.

But also the corrupt.

Bring them to repentance;

Let me speak your word.

May it reach the princes.

May it bless the poor.

With fire in my belly:

Your good news is at hand.

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.

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

Reaching Youth for Christ During Sudan’s Coup

Image: John Sagherian
An outdoor YFC youth meeting in al-Thawra near Wad Madani, Sudan

At 6:30 a.m. last Monday, John Sagherian and Elie Heneine went down to the lobby of their three-star hotel in eastern Sudan and found a crowd gathered around a TV. Filtering in, they heard the news.

The military had staged a coup in the capital, Khartoum, 90 miles to the northwest.

“Instantly, everything we planned for that day was up in the air,” said Heneine, a 27-year-old staff worker with Youth for Christ (YFC) Lebanon. “Oh well, youth work is very organic.”

Sagherian, the 74-year-old YFC regional director, had long been “dying to visit” Sudan. Two years earlier, he had identified a promising country director named Sabet, who since then had recruited seven other volunteer staff members. Sabet even ignored the capital, concentrating instead on the poorer hinterland.

The Lebanese team of two were finally scheduled to meet their new Sudanese colleagues later that day. As malaria had been among their concerns, they had taken 100 mg of medication every day for two weeks prior. The visa had also been a complication, requiring multiple layers of bureaucracy. But it was the BBC app that now troubled Joy, Heneine’s American wife of five months, as Sudan increasingly filled her news feed.

Heneine himself was at peace. Not only was he used to instability as a Lebanese Christian, but Sabet and others assured them everything was fine—despite the political tumult between the once-cooperating military and civilian leaders.

In 2019, the Sudanese army backed massive protests to overthrow 30-year dictator Omar al-Bashir. A spate of religious freedom reforms replaced his Islamist governance, normalization agreements were signed with the nation’s former enemy Israel, and the US removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The economy was struggling, but the World Bank was poised to help. Sudan was almost ready to rejoin the community of nations. But politicians were bickering, and a military coup had been suppressed only one month earlier.

In the background was disagreement over sending Bashir to the International Criminal Court to be tried for war crimes in Darfur. Deeper still were issues of army control of large sectors of the economy. And at an unspecified but fast-approaching date, the transitional Sovereign Council was supposed to switch to civilian leadership. Two days before the coup, the YFC team had traveled three hours over bumpy roads with multiple checkpoints to reach…

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