Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Voice of the Martyrs, country to pray for this week: Chiapas (Mexico)

Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico. Since 1994, the leftist Zapatista paramilitary group has used Chiapas as a base for its anti-government activities. Many indigenous Chiapans are descended from the Maya and are largely marginalized by the government. Catholicism in the region is blended heavily with traditions from indigenous religions.

Category: Hostile Nation
Religion: Folk Catholicism 64.5%, Christian (evangelical) 21.9%
Ideology: Mixture of folk Catholic syncretism and liberation theology
Head of State: Governor Juan José Sabines Guerrero

Evangelicals in Chiapas face prejudice, harassment and expulsion from their villages, as well as attacks against their churches and private property. Opposition to evangelicals is mostly due to their refusal to participate in syncretistic community religious events that involve pagan rituals and heavy drinking. Evangelicals are considered a threat to local political and religious leaders’ control. VOM provided support to a group of displaced Chiapan Christians.

Daily Prayer Requests:
February 26:  Evangelical Christians continue to suffer at the hands of community leaders in the Chiapas region.
February 27:  Pray for Christians attempting to return to their community after being run off.
February 28:  Many Christians are enslaved by traditional practices.  Pray that they will find freedom in Christ.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Voice of the Martyrs, country to pray for this week: Burma (Myanmar)

Burma (officially known as Myanmar) was ruled by an oppressive military junta for 22 years. The economy is one of the least developed in the world, suffering from decades of mismanagement. Little wealth reaches the population. In 2010, Burma held a flawed parliamentary election that officially disbanded the junta but gave government positions to members of the former regime and heavily favored the military. Authorities have perpetrated numerous human rights violations, including forced labor, genocide, rape, torture and detention. Most of these abuses have continued under the new government, though some political prisoners have been released. About 2 million people have fled the country, and many within the country have been internally displaced. Ceasefire agreements signed in 2011 and 2012 offer hope for an end to longstanding conflicts between the government and rebels from the Karen and Chin ethnic groups.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Buddhist 80.0%, Christian 9.0%
Ideology: Buddhism/Military dictatorship
Head of State: President Thein Sein

Though the Burmese government claims to support freedom of religion, in 2010 it banned independent house church activities and carried out a variety of abuses against ethnic minority Christians, including forced labor, relocations and destruction of religious sites. A 2009 law bans independent house churches. In the last two years, the military has closed churches, imprisoned pastors, forced Christian children to work and offered money and promotions to soldiers who convert Christians to Buddhism. Christian minority groups, particularly the Karen and Chin groups, are singled out for the harshest treatment. In the last 10 years, more than 3,000 Christian villages have been burned. VOM provides tools for evangelists, helps rebuild churches and resettles displaced Christians.

Daily Prayer Requests:
February 19:  Pray for Karen and Chin ethnic Christians, who are singled out for abuse.
February 20:  Pray for Christians among the Naga, Kachin, Shan and Karenni people.
February 21:  Pray for Voice of the Martyr's efforts to provide Bibles and assistance to pastors and believers.
February 22:  Pray for "Luke," "Peter" and "Paul," who share the gospel in this hostile environment.
February 23:  Pray for a strong church among the Rakhine tribe, Burma's most unreached people group.
February 24:  Pray for Stephen, a Christian teacher severely beaten for sharing Christ with his students.
February 25:  Pray for President Thein Sein.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Living in the Moment...

Come now,you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
James 4:13 - 14

The idea of "Living in the Moment" has been on my mind a lot lately.  God has been impressing on my heart a need to not look to the future so much that I forget the opportunities that He's given me right now.

I've lived my life far too often with a future mindset...thoughts like, "In the future I'll be a pastor," "In the future, when I'm married"...etc.  I do this so often that I forget the "here and now."  There are hurting people everywhere...in your work...in your home...in the supermarket...and even a Christian University.

This way of thinking can even affect my approach to resisting sin.  I think, "I need to be ready for when the temptation comes in the future."  No...I need to be ready every moment for the next time the temptation comes.

I do not know when God will take me by death or by being called up with the rapture...I need to be utilizing every moment of every day, doing that which glorifies Him!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Voice of the Martyrs, country to pray for this week: Brunei

Brunei’s economy is based almost entirely on oil and natural gas, and its gross domestic product is the highest in Asia. The same family has led the country for more than six centuries.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Muslim 65.3%, Christian 11.4%
Ideology: Islam
Head of State: Sultan/Prime Minister Sir Hassanal Bolkiah

Islam is the official religion, and it is the only religion taught in school. While religious freedom is guaranteed under the constitution, Christians face a variety of restrictions, including confiscation of religious materials intended for distribution and sale, and prohibitions on religious teaching in private, non-Islamic schools. Evangelism and conversion to Christianity are prohibited, Bible importation is forbidden and the government regularly ignores requests to build or expand churches. Even religious symbols on imported magazines are censored. There are only three registered churches in the country, all built during the colonial era. No new churches have been permitted, so believers must meet secretly. VOM smuggled Bibles into the country for three years, effectively meeting the need for Bibles in the nation by 2011, but we continue to monitor the need.

Daily Prayer Requests:
February 12:  Pray that the majority Malay people will be reached with the gospel.
February 13:  Evangelism is illegal, and missionaries are banned.  Christian materials are allowed only for personal use.
February 14:  Pray for continued unity and perseverance among Christians.
February 15:  Brunei's Muslim monarch dates back to the 15th century.  Pray for positive change in the government.
February 16:  Religions other than Islam are often infiltrated and monitored.  Pray for spiritual openness.
February 17:  Pray for the encouragement and growth of believers who meet in secret.
February 18:  Pray for Sultan/Prime Minister Sir Hassanal Bolkiah

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Jesus is worthy of far more than intellectual belief, and there is so much more to following him than monotonous spirituality. There is indescribable joy to be found, deep satisfaction to be felt, and an eternal purpose to be fulfilled in dying to ourselves and living for him."
-David Platt

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Voice of the Martyrs, country to pray for this week: Bhutan

Globalization and modernization are gradually opening Bhutan to the outside world, but it remains one of the smallest and least developed economies in the world. Preserving national identity is extremely important to the government, and national dress is compulsory. Bhutan made the shift to democratic rule in March 2008.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Buddhist 74.6%, Christian 2.1%
Ideology: Buddhism/Hinduism
Head of State: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck

The number of Christians in Bhutan is estimated at between 3,000 and 6,000, mostly secret believers. Christians face social discrimination as well as anti-Christian policies. They may practice their faith in private, but public worship and evangelism are limited. Only Buddhist religious texts are allowed in the country. Non-Buddhist houses of worship and meetings are forbidden, and Bhutan’s National Security Act (NSA) prohibits proselytism or incitement to convert. Christians are denied state benefits such as free education, access to electricity and water, health care and employment. Converts face loss of citizenship. VOM sponsors an underground Bible school that is training 30 to 40 pastors.

Daily Prayer Requests:
February 5:  Pray that Bhutan's "pursuit of happiness" will be replaced with faith in Christ.
February 6:  Pray for "Jul" and other Christians who are persecuted for their commitment to Christ.
February 7:  Pray for Voice of the Martyrs underground Bible schools.
February 8:  Pray for Christians in the Buddhist nation.  Some Buddhist see Christianity as a threat.
February 9:  Thirty-two of Bhutan's 35 people groups are unreached with the gospel.
February 10:  Bhutan is one of the most restricted nations in the world for Christians.
February 11:  Pray for King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Update on things...

Well, my 4th semester at Northland began last week.  For class, I'm taking Elementary Greek II (yes, I survived Greek I, by God's grace), Biblical Manhood (this is the class that I'm the most excited about), Systematic Theology IV (it covers Ecclesiology and Eschatology), Major Prophets, Biblical Hermeneutics, Historical Books, and Concert Choir.  I guess technically there's one more, but I'm going take a whole paragraph to write about that one.

So, the other class I'm taking/took is "The Christian and the Arts."  This was a great class that really challenged my thinking on a lot of different topics.  I could write a whole book on the kinds of things we discussed, but I don't want to bore my readers.  I will say this, though, it made me realize that I really should start exploring my creativity.  I'm planning on trying to learn the guitar, and I'm planning on reading recreationally much more often.

Most importantly, though, is the work that God's been doing in my life this semester so far.  I have 48% of the funds raised for my missions trip this summer, and my church, that I go to when class is in session, has promised that once the last of the funds that I know are coming in, come in, they're going to pay off the rest of the trip.  God is continually reminding me that He's sovereign, and I have no need to worry about the future.

God has also opened the door for two pastoral internship possibilities for after the missions trip.  One requires an application, so I've filled it out, and I'm going to turn it in (it's in Illinois).  If I get approved for it, I'll go on that one.  If it doesn't go through, then if the 2nd one is still available, I'll take it (it's in Michigan).

Time in the Word has been really great lately, but it's only by His grace.  I'm so easily distracted, and I so quickly take my eyes off of Him.  He's been renewing my mind to think on Him more, and I'm so thankful for the peace and joy He gives...

Voice of the Martyrs, country to pray for this week: Belarus

Belarus became an independent country in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Although it is officially a republic, it is often called “Europe’s last dictatorship.” Under authoritarian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, the government maintains tight control over the country’s citizens, restricting freedoms of speech and the press, peaceful assembly and religion.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Christian 70.5%, Non-Religious 28.1%
Ideology: Communism (remaining influence)
Head of State: President Aleksandr Lukashenko

A 2002 religion law severely curtailed religious freedom, banning unregistered religious activity, meetings with fewer than 20 members and religious activity in private homes. Unapproved churches may not buy or rent property. All religious literature is subject to censorship. The Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches enjoy special status, while other denominations or religious groups have great difficulty operating openly. A number of religious leaders have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, harassment, fines and imprisonment. Nevertheless, the church is growing despite Belarus’s overall declining population. VOM is involved in printing literature for Belarus.

Daily Prayer Requests:
February 1: Religion literature is subject to censorship.  Pray for its effective distribution and for eternal fruit.
February 2: While the population declines overall, the church continues to grow.  Pray for spiritual maturity.
February 3:  Pray for unity between denominations as they continue the work of God's kingdom.
February 4:  Pray for President Aleksandr Lukashenko.