I thought John Piper’s Plea at Lausanne Congress gets at the message of the Springs of Grace church family and the calling God has on our church. Please read it and may the Lord always let us embrace both. The underlined sections are for my emphasis.
If God had not put Christ forward to bear his own wrath, if Christ had not become a curse for us, as Galatians 3:13 says, then all the nations and all Jews would have perished under God’s wrath and entered into everlasting suffering in hell, as Jesus said in Matthew 25:46.
The reason I draw out this implication of the cross is to hold together in this congress and in the church of Christ two truths that are often felt to be at odds with each other, but don’t have to be.
One truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it impels us out toward the alleviation of all unjust suffering in this age. That’s what love does!
The other truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it awakens us to the horrible reality of eternal suffering in hell, under the wrath of a just and omnipotent God. And it impels us to rescue the perishing, and to warn people to flee from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
I plead with you. Don’t choose between those two truths. Embrace them both. It doesn’t mean we all spend our time in the same way. God forbid. But it means we let the Bible define reality and define love.
Could Lausanne say—could the evangelical church say—we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering? I hope we can say that. But if we feel resistant to saying “especially eternal suffering,” or if we feel resistant to saying “we care about all suffering in this age,” then either we have a defective view of hell or a defective heart.
I pray that Lausanne would have neither.
Pray For…The Arab of The United Arab Emirates
•Population – 538,000
•Percentage of Evangelicals – < 2.0%
•Language Spoken – Arabic
•Major Religion – Islam
•Persecution Index – 33
The Levant Arabs originally settled all over the Arabian Peninsula and later migrated to North Africa. Today, several hundred thousand Levant Arabs live along the northern edges of the Arabian Desert. The Arabian culture was developed by tribes of nomads and villagers who lived in the Arabian Desert for many centuries. It was also from there that Arab migrations began, eventually leading to the expansion of the Arab world. The Levant Arabs have had a close association with Islam throughout their history; and today, all of them except for the Arabic Jewish Arabs are Muslims. The Levant Arabs typically live in villages located near fertile regions; but they can also be found near mountain foothills in less arid regions. Although they have settled in towns or villages, they have held on to their tribal affiliations. The various tribes are ruled by sheiks (Arab chiefs that are considered to be experts in Islam and in relating to the outside world). Social life is extremely important to Arabs. They like to share a daily coffee time by sitting on the floor and drinking coffee from cups without handles. Almost all of the Levant Arabs are Muslims. There is a great need for the Gospel to be preached among the Levant Arabs. Currently, there are only a few agencies ministering to these tribes. At the present time, there are only a few known Christians within the Levant Arab community, with the largest number found among the Iraqi Arabs. Evangelization efforts among these tribes are challenging due to restrictions in many of the countries, as well as general antagonism towards Christianity.
•Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to reach out and share the love of Christ with them.
•Ask God to give the Levant Arab believers opportunities to share the love of Christ with their own people.
•Pray that their traditional Muslim culture will soften, creating open doors for the Gospel to be preached among them.
•Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of these people towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Pray For…The Navajo Indians
•Population – 277,000
•Percentage of Evangelicals – N/A
•Language Spoken – Navajo
•Major Religion – Christianity
The Navajos are the second largest tribe in the United States. Most of the Navajos live on or near their main reservation of some 24,000 square miles —the largest in the country—in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The Navajo land, though extremely remote and isolated, has many renewable and non-renewable natural resources. Much of income is derived from oil, gas and uranium deposits on the reservation, which has made the development of industrial enterprises possible. The majority of Navajos still live in hogans—mound-shaped, windowless dwellings made of logs and mud. An increasing number, however, have homes with modern conveniences. Construction of sanitation facilities, medical centers, and roads into isolated areas has improved tribal health. However, over 50 percent of Navajo people live below the poverty level. High levels of unemployment persist despite efforts to find ways to attract various types of businesses on the reservation. The Navajo are challenged daily by the tasks associated with attracting businesses to an environment that has little or no infrastructure. Life on the reservation can be difficult. Basic necessities like electricity and secure home structures make it a reality that third world poverty exists within the United States. High rates of alcoholism and other social vices plague the Navajo community and contribute to the cycle of poverty that has held this people group down for centuries. The church is small, but many ministries are working among the Navajo. According to Joshua Project, there are few, if any, known Evangelical professing Christians among the Navajo.
•Pray for the Gospel to penetrate the Native American cultural barrier that exists. Pray that culturally appropriate ministry and the development of indigenous forms of Christian worship will help the Navajo realize that they can be both Christian and Native American.
•Pray for full reconciliation of the Navajo and immigrant peoples. Ask the Lord to bring about true repentance by white Americans and true forgiveness by the Navajo, so a spiritual breakthrough can take place.
•Pray for God to move among the Navajo and for the Holy Spirit to speak to the hearts of those who need salvation. Pray for the Navajo people to be saved.
•Pray for existing Navajo believers to be encouraged. Pray for the small Navajo church to be bold to share the Gospel and make disciples in their own communities.
•Pray for workers to be sent to the Navajo to equip and provide biblical training to those who need it.
•Population – 27,595,000
•Percentage of Evangelicals – 0.3%
•Total Number of People Groups – 67
•Number of Unreached People Groups – 37
•Language Spoken – Uzbek
•Major Religion – Islam
•Human Development Index – 102
In the 19th century, Russia conquered the territory of present-day Uzbekistan. After resistance and the Boshevik Revolution, a socialist republic was established in 1924. Uzbekistan gained its independence in 1991. Though free, the people and land have many struggles that prevent the country from emerging. According to the CIA world factbook, “current concerns include terrorism by Islamic militants, economic stagnation and the curtailment of human rights and democratization”. Uzbekistan is a secular state that promotes a moderate form of Islam. Pressure against religious minorities, including Protestants, has increased recently. This past year, officials cracked down on Christians throughout Uzbekistan. However since 1990 it is estimated that at least 25,000 ethnic Uzbeks are believed to have converted to Christianity. The Church is growing, but our brothers and sisters are meeting in secret and many are being arrested and persecuted.
•The Uzbekistan government relentlessly persecutes the Church. Pray for Christians who are under pressure to betray fellow believers to officials. Pray for God’s strength for those who are persecuted and imprisoned.
•Uzbek believers steadily grow despite opposition. Pray for quick integration of new Christians into a house church or fellowship so discipleship can take place. Pray for boldness and courage under intense pressure and fear.
•Pray for the Uzbek government. Pray for genuine change, reform and leadership that demonstrates uprightness and governs for the sake of the people.
•Pray for the unreached in Uzbekistan, the Karakalpaks and the Tajiks. Less than 0.1% are Christian in these groups. Pray for the availability of the Gospel among these peoples and for many to know Christ.
“Underneath are the everlasting arms.” – Deut. 33:27
God—the eternal God—is himself our support at all times, and especially when we are sinking in deep trouble. There are seasons when the Christian sinks very low in humiliation. Under a deep sense of his great sinfulness, he is humbled before God till he scarcely knows how to pray, because he appears, in his own sight, so worthless.
Well, child of God, remember that when you are at your worst and lowest, yet “underneath” you are “everlasting arms.” Sin may drag you ever so low, but Christ’s great atonement is still under all. You may have descended into the deeps, but you cannot have fallen so low as “the uttermost;” and to the uttermost he saves.
Again, the Christian sometimes sinks very deeply in sore trial from without. Every earthly prop is cut away. What then? Still underneath him are “the everlasting arms.” He cannot fall so deep in distress and affliction but what the covenant grace of an ever-faithful God will still encircle him. The Christian may be sinking under trouble from within through fierce conflict, but even then he cannot be brought so low as to be beyond the reach of the “everlasting arms”—they are underneath him; and, while thus sustained, all Satan’s efforts to harm him avail nothing.
This assurance of support is a comfort to any weary but earnest worker in the service of God. It implies a promise of strength for each day, grace for each need, and power for each duty. And, further, when death comes, the promise shall still hold good. When we stand in the midst of Jordan, we shall be able to say with David, “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” We shall descend into the grave, but we shall go no lower, for the eternal arms prevent our further fall. All through life, and at its close, we shall be upheld by the “everlasting arms”—arms that neither flag nor lose their strength, for “the everlasting God fainteth not, neither is weary.”
– C. H. Spurgeon
•Population – 74,565,000
•Percentage of Evangelicals – 0.0%
•Total Number of People Groups – 61
•Number of Unreached People Groups – 39
•Language Spoken – Turkish
•Major Religion – Islam
•Human Development Rank – 79
The Turkish Ottoman Empire once stretched across North Africa, Arabia, Western Asia and Southeast Europe. World War I was the final demise of the Empire and the beginning of the new modern Turkey. The official formation of the republic was established in 1923 by Ataturk, the famous “Father of the Turks”. Under his authoritarian leadership, the country adopted wide-ranging social, legal, and political reforms. Periods of social disorder and military rule led to instability in the government of Turkey. In 1983 a democratic government returned and was important, however the military still had considerable influence. Since then, Turkish political parties have multiplied, but democracy has been fractured by periods of instability and intermittent military coups. Popularly dubbed a “post-modern coup”, the then Islamic-oriented government was ousted in 1997 by the military. Turkey is strategically important in the world because of its location as the bridge between Europe and Central Asia. The unique situation positions Turkey as a potentially excellent diplomatic mediator among various powers. In 2005, Turkey began accession talks with Europe. As the long standing guardian of Islam, Turkey is now caught in a tension of reform. Turkey is officially a secular state, no longer governed by Islam. However, the line between Islam and secularism is fine and constitutional religious freedom is not fully upheld. Recent deaths, arrests and threats to Christians highlight the reality of severe persecution that exists in this country. There appears to be no sign that Turkey will embrace true religious freedom. In August 2007, Turkey took a step back toward a religiously controlled state when they elected as president a former proponent of political Islam. Christians do not enjoy freedom of religion, in fact politicians, military and police are mostly hostile towards anything Christian. The government gives false information about Christianity, swaying public opinion to fear and resist Christianity. Unfortunately the public is easily influenced. Although small, the Church is growing and the Gospel is being spread amongst harsh opposition.
•Turkish Christians face harsh persecution. Pray for protection and for boldness, pray against a spirit of fear. Greater growth will inevitably lead to greater opposition; pray that such opposition in turn leads to greater growth.
•Many believers escape persecution by moving to new countries and emigrating to other parts of the world. Pray for local believers to persist in following Jesus, whatever the cost.
•The legal standing of Christians, both as a whole and as individual congregations is in jeopardy. Promises of laws restricting Islamic-rule have been obstructed. Pray for the government to give freedom to all. Pray for legality to meet as Church congregations. Pray for the requirements to gather together will be lifted and the Church will be able to join together is peace.
•Evangelical Christianity is slowly but surely growing in Turkey. The number has risen from 10 in 1960 to around 4,000 in 2010. Growth is not as rapid as many had hoped but it is an important marker of Church growth. Pray for the Church to continue to grow. Pray for more people to know Christ and for discipleship to cause growth in the Church. Pray for the spread of the Gospel through the existing believers in Turkey.