Pray for Our World: United States of America

USA is the world’s third-largest nation in area and population. It is the only industrialized nation with large projected population increases, largely due to immigration. There is an estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants and 1 million legally naturalized annually.  It is a nation of immigrants, a place of refuge and a place of freedom.  It has the greatest ethnic-origin diversity of any nation in history.  58% are caucasian, 15% latin-caribbean, 12% african-american, 6% eurasian, 1.8% jewish, 1.6% east asian, 1.4% arab, and less than 1% each are Filipino, South Asian and North American Indigenous.

USA holds 25% of the world’s GDP and 50% of the world’s military spending. It is the world’s most entrepreneurial economy and society.  Freedom of religion, which is written in the constitution, is principled on the separation of church and state, and intended to protect both. There is no doubt that a strong Christian history shaped the new country over 200 years ago. The country’s principals are the epitome of Christianity – freedom, charity, love, grace and equality.  Today, about 77% claim to be Christian and about 17% non-religious. Protestant and Catholic make up the majority of Christian denominations.

21st century America is changing, the world is changing, and the world’s perception of America is changing. History has shown us this before as we cycle through eras and empires. Yet I hope America has not missed its opportunity and greater purpose. We have an opportunity to show the world, many who cross our borders every day, of who Christ is. To show a world, many who have only known of hate and war, what is love and charity, the very reason people come here to begin with. Our freedoms are for all and should remain that way, but we should also be a nation for God.

History shows us this very well. The Israelites in the Old Testament stood out among all of their neighboring pagan nations. They were they only people who worshiped the one true God, and did not sacrifice their children to the gods and perform many other terrible pagan practices. They were set apart to be different, and to carry the story of God to the rest of the world. Foreigners were allowed to live among them, and were treated remarkably well, but they also had to respect the Israelite’s laws and rituals. They did not allow pagan religions within their nation, as it would diminish the meaning of God for future generations to come.  When the Israelites obeyed God’s commands, they were blessed beyond measure. No enemy could infiltrate them. King Solomon built a glorious temple of gold like none other. But when they strayed and started worshiping the other gods, the people were reduced to poverty and exiled from their land. The evidence and statistics of a nation that follows God is very strong. I pray that the United States does not repeat this history.

For the Lord gives wisdom,
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He stores up success for the upright,
He is a shield for those who live with integrity
so that He may guard the paths of justice.
Proverbs 2:6-8

Pray for Our World: Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is almost all desert, but contains 25% of the world’s known oil reserves. This enormous oil wealth produces 75-90% of government revenue and is the foundation of the economy and infrastructure, while also being used to export Islam globally. Ironically, unemployment among Saudis is high, between 20-40%, largely due to Saudis’ disdain for certain types of jobs.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace and keeper of Islam. People of other faiths may live in Saudi Arabia, but they may not practice their religion openly or gather privately. Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights is one of the worst. Why would a religion supposedly of God be against human rights, freedom of thought and equality? There is no mention of the word “love” in the Quaran. This is in stark contrast to the Bible’s most famous verse of “God so loved the world…”.

Saudis who come to faith in Christ face the death penalty if discovered. At the very least, they are disowned and kicked out of their homes. Despite this, increasing numbers are secretly seeking and finding Jesus, and there are believers in every Saudi city. It’s as if Jesus was speaking directly to them when He said:

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

Pray for these new believers to persevere, to multiply, and to find other believers they can safely be with in fellowship.

Pray for Our World: Palestine

Wall between Israel and West Bank

The Palestine Authority comprises two separate parts in the middle of Israel – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  They claim Jerusalem as their capital and control most of the major towns, but Israel controls the access points.  They lost most of their land in 1948 and the conquest of the remainder by Israel in 1967.  This event dominates the lives of most of the Palestinians living there. There are over 10 million Palestinian Arabs globally.  Between 2 and 3 million live in Jordan, over 1 million in Israel, and the rest spread elsewhere in the Middle East and the West.  Between Israeli occupation and Islamist persecution, there is not much of a Christian minority here.  88% are Muslim, 9% Jewish, and less than 2% Christian.  The Greek Orthodox and Catholic Church are the largest Christian churches.  Palestinian Christians find themselves attacked by both sides – Jews and Muslims.  Arab evangelicals, numbering in the thousands, feel rejected and isolated by Jews, Arabs and traditional Christians.

The origin of Palestine comes from the Philistines in the Old Testament Bible, who occupied part of the land of Canaan before it became the Promised Land that God gave to the Israelites as part of His covenant with Abraham and His people.  The land was flowing with milk and honey.  Moses described it as “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt not eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass”.  Even today, this same land has a good variety of climate, plants and animal life.  So you can see it is a complex identity that dates back to the time of Moses.  But, if you dig further in the history of the Old Testament Bible, the Philistines were a brutal people who worshiped pagan gods and sacrificed their own children, and treated the Israelites horribly.  This is the reason they were driven out of Canaan by God and the reason God set apart a people who would be an example of how God wanted us to live and to carry His Word forward to future generations.  Yet even the foreigner in the Promised Land was treated as one of God’s own as long as they chose to worship the true God.  No matter who we are, we must humble ourselves, realize our need for God, repent, and then His ways will be our ways.  It was true then and still true today.

Pray for Our World: Pakistan

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, located between Afghanistan and India, has a complex arrangement of ethnicity, language and caste, far more than in most nations.  Public data on their economy and population is not available.  Officially their literacy rate is 56% but a more realistic estimate is 25-45%.  There is high inflation and widespread corruption.  It is common to have shortages of electricity and gas disruption in normal life.  About 20% live below the poverty line.  The fight against radical Islamist groups continues to be a huge drain on the economy, which serves the Islamist groups even further.  There is limited land and water and a crumbling infrastructure, along with decades of conflict and war.  Previous governments have pursued Islamization of the legal system, taxation and public life, as well as discrimination against all religious minorities.  Shari’a law is increasingly applied, even to Christians and Hindus, and this continues to oppress the people.  Non-Muslims and non-Sunnis must practice their faith cautiously.

I write all of this with a personal heavy heart, because I have met co-workers from Pakistan and keep in touch with them through email and social medial.  I sense the cautiousness in their responses, and they always give praise to Allah in anything they write.  They are smart and educated and independent for women, definitely a minority in Pakistan.  On the surface, their talk of Allah seems very much like the Christian God.  But once you get a little further into it, the differences become more subtly apparent, and then it becomes very different.  The Pakistani government also spreads a lot of false-teaching about Christianity and anti-Christian propaganda.  We must be secure in our beliefs as Christians so we do not become deceived.  Be a light, so that people may see the true Christ through you.  It may be the only light they get to see.

Pray for Our World: Norway

Norway is a long, mountainous fjord-indented land.  It is one of four Scandinavian countries.  It has a strong and wealthy industrial state from oil, mining, fishing, forest products and high-tech industries.  Their average income is $94,000 per person which is 199% of the USA.  They are number one in the human development index, which is composed of life expectancy, education and per capita indicators.  The Lutheran Church (or Church of Norway) is the official state church.  It all sounds really nice.

Norway has had a powerful spiritual heritage over the last 200 years which is evident in their success.  But it cannot be taken for granted for the next generation.  Less than 10% of young people in Norway are committed Christians.  And while 90% of Norwegians are church members, only 4% attend church on any given Sunday.  More than half doubt or don’t believe in the existence of God.  Pray for the roots of Norway’s rich Christian heritage to be re-ignited.