Pray for Our World: Jamaica

Jamaica is a large mountainous island in the Caribbean.  Jamaica has a wonderful Christian heritage, and one of the highest number of churches per square mile with several Bible schools and seminaries.  However, gangs and drug cartels have also brought high crime, violence and drugs to the country.

The Rastafarians is a common religion in Jamaica, characterized by the colors green, gold, red and black that you see in Jamaican hats, symbols and clothing.  It is a mix of Christian beliefs, black consciousness ideas, and social movement.  Dreadlocks, reggae music (popularized by Bob Marley), the use of marijuana, and their peace and love philosophy are all part of Rasta.  Though it all may sound good, they do not follow the Christian God.  Bob Marley sang a song called The Redemption Song, which hints of a spiritual longing and searching.  It is said that Bob Marley wanted to convert to Christianity but the people around him convinced him otherwise, as it would not be good for his popularity or their wallet. The story goes that Bob Marley later converted to Christianity and was baptized before he died.  I hope he is singing that true Redemption song in heaven today.  Our earthly rewards will be quickly gone and forgotten, but our eternal decisions will live on forever.

Pray that the Jamaicans will be able to reclaim their country from the crime and violence and drugs that is taking away our youth and true freedoms.

Pray for Our World: Israel

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but it is not recognized internationally.  The land is regarded by Jews, Christians and Muslims as their Holy Land.  Israel became a nation again in 1948 after almost 2000 years.  The northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria in 722 BC and the southern kingdom (Judah, capitol Jerusalem) by Babylon in 586 BC.  After 70 years of Babylonian exile, they returned to their land in Jerusalem and rebuilt King Solomon’s temple.  After Christ and the subsequent fall of Rome in 70 AD, the Jewish temple was destroyed, the nation dispersed and Jews scattered around the world, all fulfilling the prophecy from the book of Daniel.  The bringing together of a nation again after almost 2000 years fulfills another major prophecy before the second coming of Christ.  The temple must also be rebuilt a third time before the remaining prophecy can be fulfilled.  The original temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was built by Solomon, King David’s son.  The second rebuilding of the temple in the same place was instructed by God after the Israelites returned from exile, and the third rebuilding has yet to be done.  There are currently preparations in Israel for all the materials needed for the temple so that the Jews can be ready when the time comes.

Israel today is modern, sophisticated, and well developed in high-tech, bio-tech, chemical and agricultural sectors, and the only democracy in the Middle East.  This is evidence from their history, as a people who were chosen to be separate from other pagan religions, and as a people chosen to carry the story of God to the world.  God patiently waits for them to return, and in the end times, they will once again lead the way, this time with Christ.  God promises to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel.  Like any parent with wayward children, we would want them to be cared for until they return.  The population of Messianic Jews has increased over recent years, and I have had the opportunity to listen to many of their stories.  Messianic Jews are rich in family history, and they take claim to their Jewish Jesus with pride!  Pray for the salvation of Israel.

If we believe the Christmas story, and if we believe the prophecy that told of Jesus’ coming the first time just like the Wise Men did, why wouldn’t we believe the prophecy of Jesus coming a second time?

Pray for Our World: Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran (formerly Persia from the Bible) is a desert region that strategically surrounds the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Iraq, Caspian Sea, and Persian Gulf.  A wealthy country in oil and natural gas, 80% is export earnings and only 20% is private sector.  28% of the young people are unemployed.  The theocratic Islamic Republic was declared in 1979 after the Shah was deposed in the Shi’ite Muslim Revolution.  It is a religious dictatorship.  The courts can impose a death sentence to male apostates, and life in prison for female apostates.

The most amazing thing that has come out of the dictator revolution is that the forced Muslim regime has left many Iranians disillusioned about the religion and more open to the Gospel than ever before.  Massive numbers of Muslims have recently been coming to Jesus.  Never since the 7th century has the Church in Persia grown so fast as post-1979, and even more amazing for a country that imposes the death sentence for doing this.  There have been numerous stories of dreams and visions, signs and wonders, happening in the underground church.  I have heard some of them myself directly from Iranians who have escaped to the U.S.  These people risk everything in search of hope and meaning in life.  One man I spoke with had literally been chased from his home with only the clothes on his back, to escape to Turkey where he could be baptized.  “I never knew that God could be my Father!  My Father!”, he exclaimed with tears of joy and relief in his eyes as he told his story.

Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to move in this country, to shed a light to the darkness.  Pray for the underground churches and the new Christians.  May the people know the true joy and hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.  It would be a shame to keep such knowledge from them, when we know and have the truth with us every day.  Do not take it for granted!  Do not keep it hidden.

Pray for Our World: Iceland

Iceland is a unique, volcanic island in the North Atlantic.  It is largely inhabited by Icelandic peoples (over 90%) but the immigrant and travel population is starting to increase, which brings a change to their traditionally guarded society.  Iceland’s rather new finance sector was deeply affected by the financial and banking collapse in 2008-2009.  They struggle between their traditional fishing, which previously brought a high standard of living to their fragile environment, and the new environmental controversies of energy plants and aluminum factories.

The Lutheran Church is recognized as the state church and the majority are protestant Christian, however much of this is in name only.  Biblical Christianity and a lifestyle of following Jesus Christ are alien concepts to most.  The Bible Society recently launched a new Bible translation in Iceland which was well received and has resulted in many acquiring Bibles.

Pray that the people of Iceland will turn to the Bible to learn about the Christianity that they profess.  God promises us wisdom if we ask, and God can guide the people of Iceland through His Word, to navigate during this changing period in their beautiful country.

Pray for Our World: Hungary

Hungary has adjusted well from a socialist economy to a market economy, though the older generation struggles a little more to go from a system that cared for their needs to one which they mostly look after themselves.  Hungary is a country rich in history and Christian history as well.  In the year 2000, they celebrated 1000 years since their conversion to Christianity.  Originally Hungary was a Roman province in 8 AD, and there were Christian communities there as early as the 3rd century.  The first Hungarian translation of the Bible was prepared in the 1430’s by Hussite preachers.  Roman Catholicism came to Hungary and they helped administered schools and hospitals.  Later came Reformed (Calvinist), Evangelical (Lutheran), Orthodox, and Unitarian (first created in the 1850’s in Transylvania).

Around the year 1000, Vajik became the first King of Hungary after defeating his pagan opponent, and was baptised (pictured in the famous painting above) and assumed the name Stephen after his baptism.  Around this time, missionaries also came from several different areas to Hungary.  One of King Stephen’s first laws was that everyone should go to church.  His second law was that every ten villages together should build a church.

Hungary has contributed significantly to the arts, sciences, and literature over the ages, from middle ages, reformation, papal history, enlightenment, and the Austro-Hungarian empire.  In 1949, Hungary became communist, modeled after Stalin in the Soviet Union.  Religious instruction was abolished, monasteries were dissolved and almost 4,000 monks and nuns were deported, imprisoned or tortured.  Fifty years later, communism disappeared, and the government passed the Law of Freedom of Conscience and Religion which established the freedom of religion as a basic human right and that church activities were useful to society.

May Hungary continue to acknowledge their Christian importance in the world and keep their freedom of religion.