Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Maritime Power, Made Perfect

God,

We pray for resolution.

Mixed up in politics, here and afield,

Lies a field beneath the sea.

It is yours.

We claim it as ours. They claim it as theirs.

As lines are drawn in subterranean sand.

Then shift. And move. Ignored. And filed—

Or not.

Negotiating is not easy.

And then there are three presidents, each with a share of a weakening state,

Taking on the behemoth.

But there is a fourth, God. Very well armed.

A factor in the equation.

We pray for resolution.

But not just finality – justice, and fair.

Preserve us our rights. But what are they?

Who says this angle? No, two degrees more. Stretch the line out for a thousand.

Bend it here for this field, then split it at that.

Can we speak of the moral in mathematics?

Power.

If your word is true, we are mighty.

Because we are weak. And in that, our strength.

Unpredictable. Wild. Unyielding.

We are masters in exploiting system.

There are few rules in power.

But there are morals.

They don’t keep them—but do we?

For your word to be true we must meet it.

Our weakness is strength, but is it of you?

Is it just? Is it fair? Is it righteous?

Is it humble?

We pray for resolution.

Not one that seeks a mealy peace—

Trades principle for interest.

We need the gas. So does the world.

In double want find outcome.

God, we desire real strength.

Unity. Consensus.

But to find them we must each bend low—

A power, made perfect, in weakness.

Bless it, God. We need the gas.

We need a resolution.

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

Pew: Israelis and Palestinians Find Favor in the Eyes of Americans

Americans prefer a less polarized Holy Land. But they themselves are as polarized about it as ever.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center—three years removed from when Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu led the political scene—reveals rising favorability ratings for Israel and Palestine, across nearly every segment of Americans.

Most, however, still prefer Israel.

White evangelicals lead the way, with 86 percent viewing the Israeli people favorably and 68 percent viewing Israel’s government favorably, compared to 37 percent favorability for the Palestinian people and 14 percent favorability for their government.

Overall, 1 in 3 white evangelicals view both peoples favorably, but only 1 in 10 favor both governments.

These believers are out of step with the wider US, however.

Among Americans at large, the Israeli people have a 67 percent favorability rating, up from 64 percent. The Israeli government’s favorability rating increased from 41 to 48 percent. And a narrow majority of Americans now view Palestinians positively (52%, up from 46%), though less so their government (28%, up from 19%). Overall, 2 in 5 Americans view both peoples favorably (42%), but only 1 in 5 favor both governments.

“Americans naturally want to be favorable toward other peoples,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). “I’m surprised it is not higher.”

Theology may have something to do with the affinity. In a new question, Pew asked Americans if God gave the land that is now Israel to the Jews. White evangelicals agreed at a rate of…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on June 9, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Published Articles Religious Freedom

Will US List Nigeria Again After Latest Religious Freedom Report?

Image: Ron Przysucha / US Department of State

Nigeria—and a few other nations—are on alert.

The US Department of State released its 2021 annual report on international religious freedom (IRF) last week, describing conditions in nearly 200 nations. Delivering remarks from the Benjamin Franklin room—where US ambassadors are sworn into service—Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented a litany of well-known offenders.

China, he said, continues its genocide against Uighur Muslims.

Saudi Arabia makes illegal the practice of any faith besides Islam.

Pakistan sentences people to death for blasphemy.

And Eritrea demands renunciation of faith to release the arrested members of religious minorities.

“Respect for religious freedom isn’t only one of the deepest held values and a fundamental right,” Blinken stated. “It’s also, from my perspective, a vital foreign policy priority.”

Last November, these four nations were among the 10 Blinken designated as countries of particular concern (CPC). A separate special watch list (SWL) listed four more: Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

But three days after the IRF report release, a terrorist attack in Nigeria highlighted its omission. Dozens of Christians were gunned down in a Catholic church on Pentecost Sunday. And one month earlier, a Christian college student was murdered by a mob over her alleged blasphemy against Islam.

Back in April, the independent US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its own list of nonbinding CPC recommendations, reminding Blinken it was “appalled” at the omission of Nigeria. After listing Africa’s most populous nation as a CPC for the first time in 2020, the State Department removed…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on June 6, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Africa Christianity Today Published Articles

Owo Church Attack Kills Dozens of Nigerian Catholics on Pentecost Sunday

Image: AFP

Terrorists launched a gun and bomb attack at the end of a Catholic Mass in southwest Nigeria on Sunday, killing an estimated 70 worshipers according to residents and church leaders.

The terrorists attacked the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo state, at about 9 a.m., church leaders and residents told Morning Star News (MSN) though text messages. The carnage could have been greater. The church, one of the largest in the area, can hold up to 1,200 people, and was full at the time of the attack.

A priest at the church, Andrew Abayomi, told MSN that as the worship service was coming to an end, the terrorists threw explosive devices and shot at worshipers.

“We were in worship Mass when the terrorists attacked us. They shot at the congregation while breaking into the church by throwing improvised explosive devices at the church building,” Abayomi said. “Some of us hid inside the church as they shot randomly at us. This lasted for about 20 minutes before they retreated.”

He said it was difficult to give details about the number killed and injured, as leaders were focusing on transferring the wounded to hospitals. Circulated videos showed bloody images of men, women, and children strewed among the pews. Among other Owo residents, Loye Owolemi said about 70 worshipers were shot dead and others abducted when terrorists…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on June 5, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: White Heart Leaders

God,

Mandate renewed. White votes aplenty.

Give him the white heart proclaiming.

And with him a deputy, narrowly won.

The same total elected odd partners.

Deal or no deal? God, only you know.

The voting is maintained clandestine.

Opposite camps, but yet status quo—

The devil you know bests the stranger.

Opinion of many: Devils them all.

Has anything changed since the polling?

A tighter result but no serious threat,

Unless in the laws—coalitions.

Prime minister soon. President maybe.

Will any foundations be shaken?

Industrious spirit, accountable charge.

Renewal within, from the margins.

We pray, God, for more. Renewal at the top.

A white heart to lead every leader.

Transform the whole, the new blood and old.

The nation to follow—then prosper.

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

‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’: Ukrainian Orthodox Church Ruptures Relations with Russia

Image: Artem Hvozdkov / Getty Images

After 93 days of war, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) has definitively broken with Russia—maybe.

In a council decision taken May 27, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC)–affiliated body declared its “full self-sufficiency and independence,” condemning the three-month conflict as “a violation of God’s commandment: Thou shalt not kill!

Such a condemnation was not new. The day the invasion began, UOC-MP Metropolitan Onufriy called it a “repetition of the sin of Cain.” But in dry ecclesial language, the statement dropped a bombshell.

It “adopted relevant amendments” and “considered … making Chrism.”

Chrism, the anointing oil of baptism and other liturgical rites, was last made in Ukraine in 1913. Its manufacture is a typical sign of autocephaly, the self-governing of an Orthodox church branch.

Continuing the tone, the UOC-MP reiterated its position.

“We express our disagreement with … Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia,” it stated of the ROC head, “regarding the war in Ukraine.”

Kirill has consistently supported Russia’s “special military operation.”

In 2018, the breakaway Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was granted autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. Rejected by Kirill and the UOC-MP, the act formalized the national schism. (A much smaller third Ukrainian Orthodox church joined the OCU.)

The UOC-MP council’s Friday statement continued to echo the ROC rejection. OCU bishops lack apostolic succession, it said, while overseeing the forcible seizure of churches to transfer jurisdiction. The UOC-MP stated a willingness to dialogue with the OCU if these dividing issues could be addressed.

And then, it symbolized division.

The next day during Holy Liturgy, Onufriy referred to Kirill as a fellow primate, not as his hierarch (superior). No mention was made of any connection to the ROC Moscow Patriarchate.

Andrey Shirin said these “unheard of” developments were “truly remarkable.”

“The ongoing war in Ukraine is a crisis on several levels—political, economic, humanitarian,” said the Russian associate professor of divinity at the John Leland Center, a Baptist seminary in Virginia. “This is another chapter in the theological crisis.” The consequences could…

This article was originally published by Christianity Today, on March 30, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Shades of Stability

God,

Will stability help? Or stability drain? Does it depend on which kind?

The speaker of parliament wants four more years,

After thirty. His leadership known.

Could he be like the lira, stable two decades plus? Before its vociferous fall.

Up. Down. Intervening. Dollars disappear,

Like value. My bank account same.

And also, my wallet—as all prices rise. Inflation: It eats more than me.

Reviving a council to keep cost control,

Will president unleash the black?

His allies: Strong for sixteen years. Their weapons: Held for forty.

Postpone this discussion for only two more,

They say. For the nation needs rescue.

Your love, God, is stable. But so is our sin. Our lives between boring, chaotic.

Transformation. Disruption. Or comfort and peace?

My answer? Desire? Confusion.

And Lebanon, God, is a riddle alike. We need an uprising, but also

A school year consistent. A pharmacy stocked.

If torn down, will build up be certain?

Sometimes, holy God, you search out the lost. Sometimes: Silent and hidden.

I alternate aching with indifferent cold,

Wanting. Contented. Unstable.

Fix us afresh, God. My nation entire. We beg of you: Guide in this crisis.

We have new politicians along with the old.

We have me. Pitiful. Yet, your image.

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
Africa Christianity Today Published Articles

Nigerian Christians Protest Deborah’s Death

Image: Courtesy of Gideon Para-Mallam

Thousands of churches across Nigeria demanded an end to sectarian killings on Sunday, horrified by the mob assault on a female university student accused of blasphemy. But fearful of more violence, their approach differed significantly—by geography.

“The overwhelming majority of our churches in the south participated, many going to the streets in peaceful protest,” said Testimony Onifade, senior special assistant to the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). “Gathering together, we condemned this gruesome act and demanded the government identify, arrest, and prosecute the culprits.”

But in the north, where Muslims represent the majority of Nigerians, John Hayab described 20 minutes set aside to pray for divine intervention. The president of CAN’s Kaduna state chapter lauded the “solemn” ceremony observed by all northern denominations, amid a ban on protests by local authorities as some Muslims had threatened counterdemonstrations.

Instead, a select group of 120 Christian leaders gathered in a Kaduna city church, guarded by police and security agencies.

There was good reason for caution.

Two weeks ago, in Nigeria’s northwestern-most state of Sokoto, Deborah Samuel was beaten to death and set on fire by fellow students at Shehu Shagari College of Education. Officials and police intervened in vain.

Two students were arrested. Protesting for their release, Muslim supporters proceeded to destroy an additional 11 buildings, descended on Christian shops in the city, and besieged the palace of the sultan of Sokoto who had condemned the May 12 murder.

According to her friend Rakia, Samuel’s last words were, “What do you hope to achieve with this?”

After a colleague shared Islamic material on an exam-prep social media group, Samuel posted an audio recording asking him to remove it. Friends who overheard some Muslim students deeming her response to be blasphemous urged her to retract the statement. Instead, she responded…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on May 25, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Elected Names and Faces

God,

One hundred twenty-eight.

Some new, some old.

Some enrage. Some inspire.

Some with me and mine. Some with them—still us.

Help us to remember.

And each one has a name and face.

Remember all—I cannot.

And here: I dare not list each one.

Yes, they are yours. And yes, they are ours.

Yes, each one in need of prayer.

But a list will not help me.

I scroll past, skim through. Whisper generic good for all.

Maybe some are more righteous than me.

How do you keep track of eight billion?

But I can pray for trends:

Bless those who come with noble aims, for whom ‘kulun yani’ kul shi.*

Now among 128. Do they join in or holdout with nose up?

God, guide them well, for change must come. New blood renews the languid.

But guide them wise, their number weak, no matter how much rising.

Bless those who come with single mind, that weapons rig the system.

Their number up, the platform theirs. Discussion, tabled, threatening.

But is it time? And can they win? What consequences suffered?

To themselves? Or to the south? Or to nation collapsing?

Bless those who lost the upper hand, who still promote their project.

Calls for reform, resistance true, with forces piled against them.

But humbled, may they humble still. Others strong. All servants?

Bless those of old, the way things were. And likely still are, maybe.

They care for own, protect their flock. Distribute jobs and money.

Should it all be swept aside? Can they sustain the model?

With ever shrinking slice of pie, help them to help all others.

Renew, or rig?

Reform, or rile?

Among each group – dishonest.

We asked before: Remove such men.

But wheat and chaff still present.

Bless them also. Change their ways. And bind manipulation.

But now we have them. So change me too.

For each one, make us thankful.

They came from you. They came from us. They now are the solution.

Help me to pray—by name—for some.

The rest, God, shepherd. Lead them.

Amen.

*The popular chant of the 2019 uprising was: All of them means all of them. Here, the phrase is adjusted to: ‘All of them means’ everything.


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

Exodus, Judges, or Nehemiah: Lebanon’s Evangelicals Assess Surprising Election Victory

Image: Marwan Tahtah / Getty Images

On the eve of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections last weekend, Resurrection Church of Beirut (RCB) called for a prayer meeting. The short meditation focused on Psalm 147: heal the brokenhearted and sustain the humble—but cast the wicked to the ground.

Mired in economic crisis, many Lebanese blame a corrupt political class.

Three years ago, a massive popular uprising shouted “all of them means all of them” against the traditional sectarian parties. But within a few months, protests fizzled as COVID-19, the Beirut port explosion, and a World Bank-labeled “deliberate” financial depression drove many to despair.

For many, emigration seemed the only answer.

Hikmat Kashouh called out to God.

“Confuse many in the election booths, and encourage others,” prayed the RCB pastor. “Cause them to vote for those you desire.”

One of Lebanon’s largest evangelical churches, only 35 members from the main Baabda campus prayed along with him. The turnout mirrored that of the nation, which initially reported that participation dropped to 4 in 10 eligible voters. Very few expected significant movement in the political map.

“For three years we have cried out to God, reflecting his love as we ministered to everyone regardless of religion,” said Nabil Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development, also known as the Baptist Society. “And then at the fourth watch of the night, when everyone was losing hope, God said, ‘I am still here.’” Most evangelicals, he said, supported…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on May 19, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Europe Published Articles

What Is Antisemitism? Evangelicals Favor Different Definitions

Image: Yoni Reif / Courtesy of WEA

In a solemn ceremony last month at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) laid a wreath of remembrance.

It was also a pledge.

“In awe and profound shame,” the alliance wrote on its Yad Vashem laurel, “yet with the promise for future solidarity.”

Alongside dialogue partners from the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), the EEA warned that antisemitism is rising around the world. Taking a concrete step April 26 in opposition, it announced its adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of the issue.

With 37 member nations—including the United States, Germany, and Poland—the IHRA has been building a coalition around the following description:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

The EEA was joined in Jerusalem by Thomas Schirrmacher, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), as well as Goodwill Shana, chairman of its international council. Though the two leaders also laid a wreath, the global organization did not sign onto the IHRA definition like its European affiliate.

The vast majority of evangelicals share the goal of combating antisemitism. But not all agree with IHRA’s usage.

“Though its specified aim is to provide a guide to help identify antisemitic statements or actions,” said Salim Munayer, regional coordinator of the WEA’s Peace and Reconciliation Network for the Middle East and North Africa, “it has been deployed to stifle discussions about whether the State of Israel should be defined in ethno-religious terms, and to delegitimize the fight against the oppression of Palestinians.”

The definition was first published in 2005 in order to evaluate and measure the growth of antisemitism in Europe. It was adopted officially by the IHRA in 2016. At issue is not its wording, but the 11 given examples that illustrate offense.

Some are clearly uncontroversial, such as calling for the killing of Jews, denying the scope of the Holocaust, or perpetuating conspiracy theories about Jewish world domination.

But of the 11, seven concern the State of Israel. Some of these examples of antisemitism are…

This article was first published at Christianity Today on May 16, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Elections, Justice, Judgment, Blessing

God,

Keep today safe. Make today just.

But justice is a hard word:

It means so many things to so many people.

Make it what it means to you.

But then, God, is it judgment?

If so, it starts with us.

Remove the planks from our eyes. Try me and know my inmost thoughts.

David preferred your wrath to the nations’. Job repented, mute.

Your discipline comes with purpose.

Your mercy mixed with tears.

May we shed them also.

And spare us the blood.

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

So we humble ourselves, instead.

We fall on our knees.

We trust your hands to shake us.

We trust your hands to heal.

No matter the meaning, we all want a change.

And so we pray the principles:

Put your candidates in office. Hold accountable the frauds.

Expose manipulation. The common interest, first.

Take these prayers, from all of us. Will my plea cancel his?

No, each prayer folded over, pressed together, overflows.

The measure we pray – measure it true.

To us and to Lebanon.

For elections, for life.

Your will to be done. Your kingdom to come.

My vote makes a difference.

Your justice, how odd.

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

Photos Show Ukraine’s Bible Belt Struck Down But Not Destroyed

Image: Joel Carillet
A Baptist church plant in Irpin, Ukraine, damaged during the Russian invasion

Ministry had been going so well in Irpin, Ukraine.

Over the past decade, the population of Kyiv’s northwest suburb swelled to 90,000, and Irpin Bible Church (IBC) grew with it. The Baptist congregation grew to include 700 adults, with an additional 300 children. And in 2019, 12 members launched a church plant in the “New Blocs” neighborhood, where 15,000 Ukrainians lived in multi-story apartment complexes with no church of any kind.

Meeting previously in a basement office, last December the church planters purchased a stand-alone building from a local bank, grateful to have their own location amid a shortage of rental space. With a ground-floor capacity of 200 people, the congregation’s 60 members anticipated additional growth.

Three months later, the Russians invaded.

Hostomel was the first suburb to fall, being home to the regional airport. The assault on Irpin and neighboring Bucha began February 27, attempting to encircle Kyiv.

IBC senior pastor Mykola Romanuk was in the US at the time, while his family relocated to western Ukraine. He returned on March 5, only to leave later that day when tanks first breached the suburb. The next day, a member of his congregation who had returned to Irpin to assist with evacuations was killed alongside a mother and her two young children—a tragedy witnessed and shared worldwide by The New York Times—as Russian forces shelled the humanitarian corridor.

By March 14, Russia occupied half the suburb, including the church plant’s quarter. IBC’s sanctuary remained secure, but 200 of its members fled to 20 nations across Europe, while another 500 scattered across western Ukraine. Romanuk was in Rivne, 200 miles west of Kyiv, with about 70 of his congregants. Services resumed online while the stalwart faithful tried to serve 4,000 mostly elderly residents left behind in Irpin.

Dozens were killed in Russian atrocities.

On March 16, Ukraine announced a counterattack. The army recaptured the suburb on March 28. But fighting continued in Bucha for another two days, during which time Russia increased its seemingly random barrage of missiles into Irpin. One hit the church plant, destroying its roof and the second floor Sunday school classrooms.

There were no military personnel in the area.

“Any building can be rebuilt,” said Romanuk. “Compared to the destruction of the city and the many who died, it is no big deal.”

While some Ukrainian Protestants see church buildings as holy, he added, the majority Orthodox Christians view sanctuaries as a sacred space to connect with God, imbued with divine aura. No food is allowed inside; certainly not a bathroom toilet.

This has impacted relief efforts. Of the eight Orthodox churches in Irpin, only two had service annexes. Though only one was damaged—and its priest killed in an airstrike—it was only the annexes that opened to shelter their neighborhood members, he said. One Orthodox priest tried to help more broadly.

“In our theology, the church is a place for service and worship,” said Romanuk. “Now it has become a home for the homeless, catering to the needs of all.” Leading IBC since 2009, he returned with his wife and daughter on April 3, living in the church basement with…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on May 13, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Electoral Change

God,

When all is bad, we still fear worse. But hope holds on that change will come.

Every billboard says so.

But what is the substance? What is the plan? This face or that one? My list, not his?

Beyond the names, what parties?

The red we know. The yellow-green. Who else is campaigning? The logos retreat.

One week remaining.

What of the rumors? Elections postponed? It seemed all in favor though no one would say.

Is a crisis coming?

God, spare us from violence. But spare us from doubt. A vote is a privilege that many don’t have.

The Arab world is arid.

Help us be faithful even if depressed. The barriers many: Cross-country, to drive.

Elite entrenchment.

But also infighting of everyone else. Media partisan. Confusing law. Regional meddling.

My ballot, to speak.

I cast it in hope that the message is heard. With enough of my comrades perhaps we can win.

Or voided, vote blank.

It too will say something, rejecting the whole. Fulfillment of duty, wash hands of results.

God, you know.

And God, you care. But towards what end? That this corrupt fall or to set back that sect?

You choose the king.

But so do I. Align my will. Dedicate me to the cause. Through me help bring the best of us.

And then, to rest.

Your favor does not come with prince, but faithfulness to prince of peace. Change itself

Can never change.

So while we work in vigilance, we ask you also change the heart. Bring repentance to our soul.

Love of neighbor. Also—them.

One week away, we ask your grace. Bring this nation toward the good; politicians, honest, pure.

But first, change me.

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: Campaign Clashes

God,

The vote is free. The people, too, or is there occupation?

Politics manipulates. Licit or illegal?

From north to south, and in Beirut, campaigning is disrupted.

But so are lives. The poster size offends the sinking lira.

Politicians show their plans—or at least their faces.

But some denied in neighborhoods where rivals show displeasure.

Provocation? Threatened quit. Rumors of postponement.

Who will win when many hate each color, list, and slogan?

Yet even those who herald change have failed to stay united.

They scratch and claw for every vote. One seat—or two—a triumph.

Division, God, is not of you. But nor is it unrighteous.

People differ, weigh their choice. And power is a blessing.

Used instead to silence voice, or raise a fear of ‘other,’

It weaponizes stewardship. It bludgeons trust and service.

Helpless, God, we but can pray? And vote in resignation?

Or will through prayer a miracle give mandate to my favored?

A miracle is needed, God.

But is it in elections?

Change the system. Change the heart.

Change the expectations.

But until then, let vote be free. The people, too, in conscience.

Their ballot cast by principle. On time, while safe and honest.

The king, you say, is in your hand—wicked, just, or tepid.

Guide voters, then, with virtue sure—conviction, courage, honor.

Many lack these marks of strength, the leading class deficient.

But all fall short of your demand to imitate our master.

Humble us, God.

Rebuild us right.

Let Lebanon freely prosper.

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: Death and Orthodox Easter

God,

I cannot say I know the cause, and many more are like me too.

But it does not look good.

Bankers reject the government plan.

Protestors rally where lawmakers meet.

But is business aligned with the people?

How to pray, except for good, when most of the small print escapes us?

And what of the pharmacist, killed in her store?

Or expat electors pulled in tug-of-war?

Better known yet is the poverty push

That dares some to risk life and limb to escape.

Some have drowned.

Some drown in blame.

Some—more than me—know the issues quite well.

Some are complicit in many a crime,

While some seek out facts keen to educate.

Give them ears, God. Too many are not listening.

We know why, and it is fair:

The hand has been nailed immobile.

So like your own, it sags inert,

Waiting for one to unpin it.

You rose from the dead by the power of God,

But came down from the cross with assistance.

Where now is Joseph, from Arimathea?

His humble act, far from the crowd—

But brave in approaching authority—

It set the stage for miracle,

Though he himself did little.

God, find these men, and amplify.

Bolster their spirits, in number.

And then, when few are watching, where only women linger:

Show yourself.

Birth new life.

Let Lebanon once again prosper.

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

How Russian Christians View the ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine

Image: Kirill Kudryavtsev / Getty

Russian sermons—to the extent legally possible—reflect the national mood.

“Honor the tsar!” preached Alexey Novikov of Land of Freedom Pentecostal church in Moscow two days after the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine, quoting from 1 Peter 2:17. While not pro-war, it was certainly pro-Russia. Once a lawfully elected president commits troops, he said, it is a Christian’s duty to support them.

One month later, Mikhail Belyaev of Source of Living Water Baptist church in Voronezh, Russia, asked, “Why are the churches silent?”

Many Ukrainian evangelicals are fuming at their cross-border colleagues for failing to speak out against the war. They also cite the apostle Peter, placing priority on the same verse’s earlier command: “Love the family of believers.”

But Belyaev’s sermon was not pro-Ukraine. His congregation 320 miles south of Moscow provides a different answer.

The churches are not silent, he said. They are preaching the gospel and praying for peace.

“Russians take the Ukrainian complaint seriously,” said Andrey Shirin, associate professor of divinity at the John Leland Center for Theological Studies, a Baptist seminary in Virginia. “But they put God before the nation—and think many Ukrainians put too much stock in their nationality.”

Shirin left Russia 30 years ago and said that, then as now, most believers are wary of politics. And while some pastors have criticized the war, a pro-Ukraine sermon would be hard to find.

Throughout the war, polls have shown strong support for what Russia has legally mandated be called a “special military operation.” Between 65 percent and 89 percent have signaled approval; 71 percent said they feel “pride” and “joy.”

Some analysts have suggested propaganda is at play: Three in 4 Russians rely on television for the news, and 2 in 3 from state-run broadcasts. Only 5 percent have access to a VPN for outside reporting.

Others have suggested falsification: A “list experiment” in which Russians did not have to answer the war question directly resulted in an approval rating of 53 percent.

Specific polls do not exist for evangelicals. Shirin, noting the difficulty of precision, estimated pro-Russia sentiment like Novikov’s would register only 20 percent. But pro-Ukraine sentiment and a clear antiwar position would fare…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on April 22, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Europe Published Articles

Parsing Pacifism: Ukraine’s Mennonite Heritage Shapes Evangelical Responses to Russia

Image: Sergei Supinsky / Contributor / Getty

Ukrainian Baptists were once practical pacifists.

Now locked in a vicious war of survival with invading Russian forces, many are on the front lines of battle. Leading voices call for NATO to enforce a no-fly zone. Pastors pray for soldiers; churches offer bread.

What happened?

It is not as straightforward as simple self-defense. But neither was their nonviolence, practiced by most Slavic evangelicals, a clear convictional principle. Forged in the fires of the Soviet Union, the then-second-largest Baptist community in the world developed along a very different path from their denominational brethren in the United States.

Just ask Roman Rakhuba, who was raised Baptist.

“I never would have called myself a Mennonite,” said the head of the Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches of Ukraine (AMBCU). “Later I discovered I was following their principles all along.”

Known as the “Bible Belt” of Eastern Europe, Ukraine’s evangelical faith was greatly influenced by the Anabaptist tradition. Rakhuba grew up in Zaporizhzhia, 350 miles southeast of Kyiv, near the old oak tree associated with the Chortitza colony of Mennonites, founded in 1789.

His grandfather was saved through one of their preachers.

But as a Baptist child, Rakhuba was raised without toy guns, instructed to never return evil with evil. Forbidden from playing war, his relatives refused to fight in the Soviet army. He remembers Mennonites hosted at his grandfather’s home, learning of the 1763 decree by Catherine the Great to invite German settlers to develop the Russian hinterland.

They were joined by Lutherans and Catholics, dissidents and rebels, offered lands, self-governance, and—vital for the pacifists—exemption from military service. Over the next century, Mennonite communities thrived in Ukraine, developing infrastructure for agriculture and industry. But increasing prosperity challenged their social and spiritual life, and drunkenness and dancing became common.

Then came pietism.

In the mid-19th century, German missionaries, such as the Lutheran Edward Wuest, found a reception with the Mennonites. Their emphasis on a regenerated Christian life through personal conversion, prayer, and Bible study appealed to colonists dissatisfied with the traditional church. The community ruptured, and in 1860 a parallel Mennonite Brethren denomination was born, sending missionaries as far as Siberia and India.

The still-German speakers lived largely separate lives from their Slavic neighbors, until two events intervened to spark an evangelical revival. In 1858, Emperor Alexander II authorized the translation and printing of the Bible in Russian. Three years later, he abolished serfdom.

“For the first time, peasants were no longer tied to the land,” said Mary Raber, a church history instructor at Odessa Theological Seminary. “Where better to find a job than on the farm of a successful colony?”

Slavs, now with a New Testament to read, started joining their Bible studies.

Mennonites were not the only revivalist movement in the Russian empire. German Baptists planted churches in the Caucasus Mountains. An English missionary won converts among the St. Petersburg elite. Neither of these groups adopted pacifism as a rule, and even some Mennonites organized self-defense units to ward off bandits in the chaos of World War I. But none were prepared for…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on April 20, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Easter Silos

God,

“Tear down these silos, and in three days I will build them up again.”

Some cheered. Some mourned.

Most went about their day.

The world moves on, and so must life.

That which is dead just crumbles.

“Keep it alive!” “Prop it up!” “We must preserve the memory!”

“At least, till justice comes.”

But where is justice, God?

Memory exchanged for glitz, throughout the civil war city.

Bullet holes here, a statue there.

Seventeen thousand still missing.

With erasure comes grievance, and grievance comes grudge.

The world moves on, and so must life.

But it does not.

Wounds run deep. Statues nurture.

The choice: Ignore, or sect.

There is nobility in both, God. But little of you.

In the silos you suffered.

Grain spoiled, poured out – for none.

The bread of life was wasted.

And now the poor go hungry.

Yet for some there is cake. Cookies abound.

Cast lots: Who has your favor?

One day they will be built again.

The world moves on, and so must life.

But will you be in it?

The new port? The next Beirut? Lebanon—if it continues?

Three days, God. We are waiting.

Millennia. We are waiting.

Come. You do not come.

But yes, you have. To me.

A day is as a thousand years, for world unperceiving.

My day is rich like a million.

My memory of sin is purged. The scars remain, but healed.

The silos—full—inside my heart.

Bread: Broken, eaten, grateful.

It is enough, God.

But it is not enough.

Too few have bread. Too few have life.

And silos: Ruined, standing.

Until they fall, or are brought down.

Erased. And justice with them.

We wait, God.

We work as we can.

Your life in us, for others.

Bless this nation. Raise afresh.

Three days.

The dawn emerges.

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

Who Is My Neighbor? For Christians in the Balkans, the Answer Might be Troll Farms.

Image: Illustration by Wenjia Tang

Twenty of the top 22 Christian pages on Facebook in 2021 were run from Europe’s southeast corner.

Nikola Galevski’s wasn’t one of them.

The pastor of Soulcraft Evangelical Church in Skopje, North Macedonia, actually prefers Twitter, which in the Balkans mostly attracts leftist and antireligious voices. He uses the handle “Protestant Imam,” which is a tongue-in-cheek gesture of openness to the Muslim population that makes up about a third of his country.

“The community teases me, and I tease them,” Galevski said, “but it helps develop their life with Christ.”

He has around 5,000 followers on Twitter, and some of his videos on YouTube went viral when his wife, Anet, was dying of cancer. Galevski shared about the struggle of her death in his weekly sermons, which were posted online. Orthodox Christians, nonbelievers, and Muslims joined him in his mourning, and when Anet died, views jumped into the tens of thousands.

But that pales in comparison to the top Christian Facebook page, “Be Happy Enjoy Life,” which reached 75 million users every month, according to an internal Facebook document obtained by MIT Technology Review. Ninety-five percent of viewers did not sign up to follow that page but instead had its content pushed into their news feeds by Facebook’s algorithms.

That page is one of 15,000 in the Balkans that is believed to be a “troll farm,” pumping out disinformation and figuring out new and better ways to command eyeballs—many of them belonging to Christians scrolling in America.

An internal Facebook document written by a senior-level data scientist said, “Our platform has given the largest voice in the Christian American community to a handful of bad actors who, based on their media production practices, have never been to church.”

They’re certainly not evangelicals. Galevski, who is also the coordinator of the Evangelical Protestant Initiative, would probably know them if they were. There are about…

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