Thank you for joining us

Welcome back to the final podcast of the 40-day Lent Journey. This is Gina. You may be wondering what is left to say, since we concluded our journey on Palm Sunday, the 40th day.

Sandra and I just wanted to take a few minutes to thank everyone who participated in our Lent journey. Some of you began and stayed with us from the very first day. Some people joined the last week of the journey. To everyone, at whatever point and in whatever way you joined, we want to say thank you. It has been an enriching, encouraging, comforting, and challenging journey with God over the past 40 days. Thank you to everyone who sent us comments and emails. That was really encouraging to us along the way.

We had 1,200 unique listeners and readers from 59 countries. We have seen regular listeners and readers from Barbados to Bangladesh. From the United States, South Africa, Portugal, Israel, Pakistan, Finland, New Zealand and Australia, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Qatar, Monaco, Madagascar, Jamaica, and South Korea, just to name some.

As the coronavirus began to spread across the globe in the middle of our journey and over the past weeks, many of us were required to stop gathering for prayer and worship with our local congregations in order to protect the most vulnerable. But we were already gathering daily across the miles and time zones as one Body of Christ to pray and listen to God, and to intercede for the nations, peoples, and the Church across the Eurasia Region. We cannot thank you enough for journeying with us.

We may feel alone and isolated in these unprecedented times, but the truth is we are one in Jesus. Even if we have never met in this life, someday we will all meet in the holy presence of God after this earthly life has ended. I look forward to meeting each one of you then, or being reunited with those of you I know.

This Monday, we enter Holy Week. We make unusual plans under global pandemic and localized quarantine to mark the torment of Jesus on Maundy Thursday; His death by crucifixion on Good Friday; a day of mourning and lament on Holy Saturday, the day that Jesus’ lifeless body languished in the tomb. And then, billions of Christians around the globe will awaken on Easter Sunday to joyfully celebrate the dazzling and shocking resurrection of Jesus, as He conquered death itself on this day in human history, 2000 years ago.

We may observe Easter differently this year, but it will not change the meaning of it, or what Christ has done for us!

So, let us all spend this week reflecting on and exploring further the lessons, the revelations, and the calls to obedience from the voice of God, whom we heard during the past 40 days.

I myself learned about Lent in a new way this year.

This is the first year that I can ever remember actually observing the Lenten season. As an American evangelical, the practice of Lent is not something I even heard about growing up in the church. In the past 10 years or so, our social circle took us among Christians and Nazarenes for whom Lent is an annual observance. However, I just didn’t really understand what it was all about. Based on short conversations with friends, and social media posts, I had come away thinking that Lent was basically about giving up something for 40 days that you really shouldn’t be doing in excess anyway. Like, eating too much chocolate, drinking too much caffeine, watching too much television, or spending too much time social media. I guess I had the impression it was like a self-help reset; it felt like a Christian version of a New Year’s resolution, and I had trouble connecting it with the lead-up to Easter.

I don’t mean to belittle these practices, which I know have been very meaningful for many believers. I am just saying that I didn’t understand what it was all about.

This year, as Sandra and I brainstormed a way that we could bring Nazarenes from the Eurasia Region together for a concentrated time in this new year of studying the Word, listening to God and praying, for ourselves and for our region, we wanted to invite our global church family to join as well. And as we began producing the devotionals and podcasts, I had to wrestle every day, in a deeper way than I usually do, with the scripture.

Some days it was easy. I could skim through the various scripture selections, and before I was even finished, the theme and message had leaped at me off the page.

Other days, it was a long struggle. I would read and re-read each scripture. Sometimes I didn’t understand any of them. Or they seemed to repeat themes from previous days. “What is the point of this story or this passage?” I would wonder. I would have to go upstairs to my father’s office and borrow some of his Bible commentaries to find out what theologians had discovered in these passages. Eventually, after much listening and study, that a-ha moment would come. I could see what it seemed like God might want to say to us that day.

By spending every day in the production of the Lent podcast and website, I had no choice but to wrestle deeply with the scriptures and with God. And I think I have discovered what Lent has come to mean to me: a sort of spiritual reset where I spend more extended focus and time on God than I usually do.

While I had not intended to give up anything for Lent this year, what happened was that I gave up sleep. I gave up time off from work. I gave up basically all my recreational activities, television shows, hobbies, and time connecting with friends. At the end of this Lent journey, I am physically and mentally exhausted. But, I am spiritually refreshed.

So, I am not a long-time observer of Lent, but I think doing this together with all of you has helped me discover what Lent is going to mean to me going forward: It’s a time where I give God an extra measure of my focus and my attention, and I really invest in my relationship for a concentrated period of time. I know that I’m already thinking about how I can retain some of the disciplines I’ve developed in these 40 days in the rest of the year.

The themes over the past 40 days that jumped out at me repeatedly from the scriptures passages were these:

  1. God wants a vibrant, growing, and loving relationship with us far more than He wants the things we do for Him. He wants us before He wants our sacrifices or our efforts. The things we do for God in ministry or in any other way should flow out of a relationship with our God, not replace it.
  2. To be in a relationship with God, to say that we follow Jesus, requires our radical and total obedience. Obedience is how we demonstrate our love for, and trust in, God.
  3. God loves us unconditionally. He loves us with all His being, even when we feel sad, depressed, anxious, suspicious of Him, hostile to Him, disappointed in Him; bitter, resentful, unforgiving, trapped, stuck, unable to change, self-loathing, ashamed, and guilty. He is with us in our suffering, and He suffers with us. He can also handle our complaints and our accusations. He only asks that instead of us abandoning the relationship, that we bring to Him our complaints about Him; that we trust Him with our accusations of how poorly or confusingly we think He is treating us. As long as we go to Him with the problems we are having with Him, He will work it out with us, and our relationship will only grow stronger.
  4. Following God is hard. It involves risk, and there is no guarantee we will have lives free of pain, that we will avoid tragedy or loss or deep disappointment. We Nazarenes do not preach a prosperity gospel. Sometimes the blessings we receive from God are not material; the blessing might be that in all our suffering, God is with us, and gives us the endurance to go through the darkest experiences in life. Yet, through all these difficult times, God will never leave us. He promises to be with us through it.
  5. God is good. God is love. God is beautiful. God is sweet and gentle. God is hard and strong. His judgement is perfect, just, is the ultimate good news. God is good. God is love. God loves us.

Sandra and I would like to invite you to share with us your testimony of a way God has worked in your life during the past 40 days. We would love to be encouraged by your story.

You can send an anonymous message to us at www.lentjourney.org/contact. Or you can write an email to communications (@) eurasiaregion.org.

Go forth this week in the sweet and powerful love of our resurrected Jesus, who now intercedes for us from the right hand of our God of the Angel Armies. And go forth in the intimate presence of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter whom Jesus sent to us after He departed from us with the promise to return again.

Amen.

Day 40 – April 5

Today is Sunday, April 5th! It’s Palm Sunday! We are finally entering Holy Week!

And so, this is our final weekend of intercession for the peoples and nations of Eurasia. My name is Sandra, and I welcome you as we gather today to intercede for the Church in India and South Asia.

Theme: Our attitude should be like Christ’s

Scripture: Philippians 2:5-11

Intercession

During our Lenten journey, each weekend we are interceding for a different field of the Eurasia Church of the Nazarene. A field is a cluster of several countries where we have churches, and there are seven fields within the Eurasia Region. You can find out more about our fields and regions at www.eurasiaregion.org.

Last weekend we interceded for Central Europe. The weekend before, we prayed for the Eastern Mediterranean Field. In the prior weeks we prayed for Northern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Western Mediterranean Field.

This weekend, we will pray for two fields: India and South Asia.

In South Asia, the Church of the Nazarene includes Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. There are also Nazarenes present in two other areas that we will not name for security reasons. You can learn more about the church in South Asia by visiting www.southasiafield.org.

Across India and South Asia, millions of people are day laborers or subsistence farmers. Millions have just enough money or food to meet their families’ needs for a day or two. In the time of corona virus, pray that God would meet the physical needs of His people. Pray that no one would go hungry, thirsty, or without necessary health care. Pray for peace amidst the prospect of severe deprivation. Ask God to build up His people’s faith and trust in Him to provide for all their needs.

A Nazarene leader in the field says, “In normal circumstances, our churches and compassionate ministry centers would be well positioned to help, but because of travel restrictions and social distancing requirements, it has made it quite difficult to support those in crisis.”

JESUS Film teams across the region are adapting to quarantine and social distancing measures. They continue follow-up and discipleship with new believers through text messages, e-mail, and video conferencing. Some are sending JESUS Film media resources to all those in their personal contact lists. Others are engaging in more JESUS Film training. Pray that God would continue to give JESUS Film teams and leaders creativity and innovation to continue ministry in spite of being unable to gather large groups or meet with people physically.

Nazarene youth are active across the nations, and have been growing in their skills and understanding of how to reach other unchurched youth through the NEXUS training program. Many youth lead and innovate compassionate outreach to their communities.

Also pray for several new missionary families who are settling into assignments and homes in South Asia. Pray for God’s blessings, grace, strength, and flexibility, and that they would forge strong relationships with national and local leaders.

Let’s hear more about the Body of Christ in each country.

India

The Church of the Nazarene first began in India in 1898. Today, more than 3,000 churches meet for worship in 12 districts. However, ordained and licensed pastors and other leaders number less than 1,000.

JESUS Film teams show the JESUS Film, conduct follow-up, disciple new believers, and help them form new church plants.

Numerous compassionate ministry projects are allowing local churches to serve the most vulnerable in their communities, especially children. Through providing education to children, they are able to bless their parents and reach whole families.

Recently, the church has identified several under-reached states with the gospel, and have been laying the groundwork to enter these areas with the gospel and to plant new churches.

Increasingly restrictive government legislation targets Christians, limiting their religious freedom, and especially making it harder to share their faith with others.

In response to the spread of corona virus:

  1. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries is reaching out to the pastors’ families and the families of children who attend Nazarene child development centers.
  2. Churches are distributing food or groceries to needy families.
  3. Some churches are conducting online services because people are not allowed to gather in person.
  4. Districts are raising funds for helping poor pastors during their time.

The Nazarene strategy coordinator for India asks for prayer in the following ways:

1. Pray for pastors and ministers to be encouraged by the Holy Spirit these days in their body, mind and soul. Pray that they are certain they belong to God and they are here to be His witnesses in every way possible, even during this time of lockdown, isolation, and anxiety! And may they be drawn closer to the Lord.

2. Pray for the pastors to be encouraged to reach out to their congregation by online services and through phone calls.

3. Pray for the laborers and industrial workers who were forced to go back to their home in the village because of virus quarantine.

4. Pray for the doctors, nurses, and paramedics who are working tirelessly during this time.

South Asia Field

Nepal—The Church of the Nazarene officially entered Nepal in 1998.

Through compassionate ministries and JESUS Film evangelism and discipleship, hundreds of churches have been planted, especially in rural areas. Child development centers led by local churches provide underprivileged children with education, instruction about hygiene practices, and sometimes nourishing meals. The centers also minister to their parents, offering workshops about practical topics like parenting and small business enterprises. Women in the villages are gathered into self-help groups, saving money together that they lend to each other to start up small businesses. These businesses not only improve life for their families, but begin to raise up whole communities out of poverty. 

Nazarene youth in Nepal are highly active and take initiative to improve their communities. Youth have worked with villages to install wells and pumps so that people don’t have to go far outside their village for clean water. Youth have also developed a film ministry and are filming testimonies of believers and compassionate ministries as a tool for evangelism and encouragement.

Pray that God will continue to breathe the Holy Spirit into His people across Nepal, that they would be blessed with boldness to preach the gospel, as well as creativity and resources to minister to people in various kinds of need. Pray for loosened government restrictions so that believers can more freely tell people about Jesus. Pray for adequate and robust discipleship for believers, so that all would deepen in their maturity and understanding of God’s word. Pray for the expansion of quality theological education.

Due to lack of infrastructure, many churches are unable to utilize technology like Internet, video conference or cell phone connections to meet, worship, pray, and share information together during the nationwide lockdown. Pray that the families and congregations who are unable to fellowship, pray, study the word, and worship together will invest in their relationships with God and take the opportunity to share their faith with family and neighbors.

Compassionate ministry leaders are meeting with government officials to obtain permission to participate in relief efforts. Pray for God to open doors for churches to help.

Sri Lanka—Our denomination officially entered Sri Lanka in 2000 and there are several hundred churches reported. Nazarenes are primarily residents of rural areas, meeting for worship in small villages and towns. Many are laborers in tea plantations. Following the civil war, many churches formed in the north and east of the country. Some of the churches gather diverse groups, with services translated into one or two languages.

A local Nazarene leader says, “In spite of the lockdown and quarantine related to COVID-19, the district superintendent and a few other church leaders received special permission from the police to visit families in rural areas to distribute basic food and supplies. Over the last few days, they have been busy going into remote areas to ensure that isolated families have what they need for the next few days.” 

Pray for God’s people in Sri Lanka to find bridges and open doors to share their faith with people who are hungry to know the one true God.

Pray for the strengthening and maturing of churches, and for the continuing efforts to plant new churches. Pray for the expansion of quality theological education.

Pray for the Church to receive favor and trust from community leaders and government authorities, as well as people from other religions. Pray that the nation would see the Church as a critical agent of love, compassion and service in the society.

Pakistan—The Church of the Nazarene officially entered Pakistan in 1996, and today there are several hundred churches meeting for worship.

Nazarenes are actively sharing their faith with others, including through the JESUS Film. Many are day laborers or subsistence workers. So, the churches struggle to raise the funds needed to buy land and construct their own buildings.

Pray for youth as they develop into future evangelistic leaders. Pray that Nazarene ministries of discipleship and missions will continue to develop and grow across the country. Pray that those who face hostility, discrimination, persecution and threats would receive a special anointing of the Spirit for boldness, wisdom and discernment. Pray for God’s protecting hand on His people. Pray for growth and stability in theological education and compassionate ministries. Pray for resources to continue building worship halls for the new churches.

Bangladesh—The Church of the Nazarene officially entered Bangladesh in 1992. Today, thousands of churches, organized as five districts, worship and minister to their communities across the country. However, the training and theological education of pastors sharply lags behind the increasing number of churches being planted.

Local churches implement and lead compassionate ministries projects. They establish child development centers, ministering to whole families and communities through their children. They provide clean water wells, and organize women into self-help groups, teaching them entrepreneurship. The women grow in their confidence, and respect from their husbands and peers, as they loan each other money. The loans enable them to start small businesses. Their success helps their families and communities flourish.

JESUS Film ministry is an effective tool for introducing people to Jesus and teaching them what it means to follow Him. Many new churches are planted, and people are discipled as a result of the ministry.

Bangladesh Nazarene Ministry is experienced and skilled at disaster relief and long-term development projects, due to the country’s many natural disasters. By meeting people’s emergency and longer term needs, Nazarenes live out God’s unconditional love and concern for the welfare of all people, regardless of their religious faith. The Church is also ministering to Rohingya refugees who escaped genocidal violence in neighboring Malaysia.

Pray for God to provide resources and leadership to rapidly expand theological education so pastoral training increases quickly. Pray that God would provide churches with mature and biblically rooted Christian leadership.

Pray for God to bless and resource the compassionate ministries underway across the country. Ask God to open many hearts to Him as people understand God is using the church to demonstrate His love for them.

Pray for the million Rohingya people who languish in crowded and under-resourced refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar. Pray that God would use Nazarenes to serve and love them and lead them to Jesus.

Pray that the district leaders and pastors would be anointed with the presence of the Spirit, with wisdom and discernment for how to continue leading the national church forward in growth, pioneering, church planting, discipleship and serving others.

Creative access area—A new work is already flourishing in a previously unreached area. Pray for God’s blessing and resources on local church planters. Pray for wisdom, safety and guidance to recognize those whose hearts are hungry for Christ’s living water. Pray that God would give new believers boldness to gather with other believers for worship, in spite of the possibility of persecution or rejection from society and family.

Let us pray.

Prayer

Our Father in Heaven,

We bring to you your people across India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Lord, the Church in this part of the world is overshadowed by the masses of people who practice other religions and worship other gods. Your people number millions here, but those who have never even heard of you are far more than 1 billion. The mission is overwhelming. And yet, your people are faithful to gather weekly to pray, study your word and worship you. They sacrificially give to people in need in their communities. They take great risks to their bodies, to their families, their businesses, and their property to share who You are and what You have done for them.

Father God, please miraculously amplify their influence, their boldness, their divine love, and their resources for effective ministry, worship and service to others.

Amid their rich diversity of language, ethnicity, economic background, education and opportunity, unite your people as the one Body of Christ. Teach them how to love one another as you love us. Where there is conflict or misunderstanding, please lead them in forgiveness, reconciliation and effective partnership. Shine brightly to their societies through the way your people love one another.

In the midst of lockdowns because of corona virus, many are suffering from lack of food, clean water and money to meet their families’ needs. Father, please enable your church to find new ways and new resources to help people coming to the churches for help and for loans. Please help churches to find partners with nonprofits and also government agencies that will allow them feed the hungry while sharing their hope in You. Lord Jesus, please uphold the physical health and the spiritual peace of your Church in uncertain times.

Please help JESUS Film teams to find new ways to continue their ministry while they are not allowed to gather people for JESUS Film showings or for discipleship and prayer. Grant JESUS Film and compassionate ministry teams your Spirit of creativity and innovation to find ways around new obstacles, and to identify new opportunities and open doors created by responses to the spread of corona virus.

Lord, please raise up new pastors and leaders for your church. Please help us to find ways to quickly expand the access and the opportunity for people to engage in theological study. Many cannot afford to pay for higher education. Many cannot afford to take time off work to attend class or complete their studies. Some may have to travel too far to go to school. Father, please make ways for them to wrestle with your word and to push their roots deeper into your Truth. Please shape people as more mature and loving believers as they dwell on biblical truths and listen to your Holy Spirit.

Let a spirit of mentorship and discipleship permeate the churches so that older generations include youth in ministry and leadership, teaching and giving them opportunities to learn through doing. Help the youth to seek out the wisdom of people with more experience as they grow in God’s calling on their lives.

Dear Holy Spirit, many of your churches are cut off from contact with one another due to lack of internet or technology during quarantine. Please be especially close to them during a time of isolation, as they may grieve the encouragement and growth they receive from meeting together for prayer, discipleship and worship. Use this time of separation to draw them especially close in dependence upon Your Spirit.

Where your people are overwhelmed, discouraged or exhausted by the challenges and the needs around them, or by failures and conflict, please breathe into them your Spirit. Please encourage them, and fill them with new fire and purpose and power to continue Your work as You lead them.

Father, we also ask for your blessing and strength for new missionary families who are embracing a new home, a new culture, a new language and a new people as their own. Please provide them everything they need to answer and live out your calling to serve the people of South Asia.

Our Almighty and powerful God, we know that You can do all the things that we cannot do or even dream of doing. All the resources of heaven and earth belong to you. Even more, your love for each person in South Asia drives you to call them back to you. We pray that you will not let one person be lost to you forever. And we pray for your hand on your people.

In your beautiful Son Jesus, we ask all this. Amen.

Conclusion

Further reading for today is found in:

Matthew 21:1-1

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Philippians 2:5-11

Matthew 26:14- 27:66

Psalm 31:9-16

Day 39 – April 4

Today is Saturday, April 4th! This is our final weekend of intercession for the peoples and nations of Eurasia. My name is Sandra, and I welcome you as we gather today to intercede for the nations of India and South Asia.

Theme: You have blotted out all our sins

Scripture: Psalm 85:1–7

Intercession

During our Lenten journey, each weekend we are interceding for a different field of the Eurasia Church of the Nazarene. A field is a cluster of several countries where we have churches, and there are seven fields within the Eurasia Region. You can find out more about our fields and regions at www.eurasiaregion.org.

Last weekend we interceded for Central Europe. The weekend before, we prayed for the Eastern Mediterranean Field. In the prior weeks we prayed for Northern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Western Mediterranean Field.

This weekend, we will pray for two fields: India and South Asia.

In South Asia, the Church of the Nazarene includes Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. There are also Nazarenes present in two other areas that we will not name for security reasons. You can learn more about the church in South Asia by visiting www.southasiafield.org.

India

Let us first look at India.

The nation now has a population of 1.3 billion people, nearly 80 percent of whom follow the Hindu religion. Christians make up just 2 percent of the population. According to Prayercast.com, 89 percent of Indians are completely unreached with the Gospel.

In recent years, India has made tremendous gains in economic growth and the movement of impoverished people into the middle class. However, it is reported, more than 360 million Indians continue to live in acute poverty.

Prayercast.com writes: “The caste system continues to hold great influence over the culture and remains a major bar to social mobility. To this day, it is difficult for people of lower castes to find jobs, no matter what their education or background. India’s infrastructure is unreliable, and political corruption is rampant.”

Increasingly restrictive anti-conversion laws make it difficult to share the Gospel. However, despite the intense persecution in some localized areas, and discrimination in others, Christianity is the fastest growing religion in India.

As of March 2, the country entered extended lockdown until April 14, as the government tries to stop the spread of COVID-19 respiratory virus. Police are deployed to enforce the lockdown, and people are experiencing panic.

Pray that a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit will break through India’s widespread strongholds of idol worship. Pray that the enemy’s use of deception and spiritual blindness to the one true God will be shattered. Pray that He will make Himself known to the people of India in whatever ways and means are necessary, even if they are unlikely to personally encounter a Christian or receive evidence of the Gospel.

Pray that Jesus will continue to dismantle the powers of discrimination, especially in the caste system, that oppress and obstruct people from living fully into who God made them to be. Pray against principalities and powers of corruption, of power-seeking, and exploitation that prevent people from raising themselves and their communities out of poverty and despair.

South Asia Field

Nepal—Nepal’s 29 million people are almost entirely unreached with the Gospel. The United Nations’ multidimensional poverty index describes 28 percent of the people as living in poverty, as of 2018, cutting its poverty rate by half over 8 years.

Prayercast.com writes, “Religious freedom is legal under Nepalese law, but restrictions are imposed on non-Hindu groups. Christian believers are at risk for fines and even imprisonment for” inviting people to follow Christ. “Though the percentage of Christians in Nepal is small, the number of believers is growing.”

Strict measures to prevent the spread of the corona virus lay heavily on the people of Nepal, many of whom are day laborers or subsistence workers, and do not have savings or food and water stored for a time of unemployment.

A Nazarene leader in Nepal says, “The general public is not allowed to go out of their house unless there is an emergency. It is very difficult for those depending on daily wages for buying their family food.”

Pray for God to give wisdom, strong leadership, compassion, and abundant resources to the country as they face a potential economic disaster. Pray for the hungry to have adequate food, the thirsty to have clean, abundant water, and for no one to lack for whatever they truly need. As the people grapple with the pandemic, pray that they would turn to the one, true living God to provide them what they need. Pray for a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit across Nepal, that the entire nation would experience hunger for God. Pray that millions would find their joy and peace in Him.

Pray that the government and authority figures at all levels of society will extend favor and support to believers and churches.

Sri Lanka—The small island nation of Sri Lanka is home to more than 22 million people, 70 percent of whom practice the Buddhist religion. About 7 percent of the population are Christians, including 6 percent Catholics, eclipsed by other minority world religions such as Hindus, at 12 percent, and Muslims at 9 percent. The nation is known for its fervent religious practice.

The island has a primarily plantation economy. Since 2005, poverty has dropped to 7 percent.

Sri Lanka claims the honor of being the oldest democracy in South Asia, and is the first modern nation to have a female head of state. However, the people are still scarred and divided by a terrible ethnic and religious civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2009. War crimes and human rights violations continue to be investigated.

In March, the government ordered people to take voluntary precautions, including staying home, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Pray for the continued economic progress, health and flourishing of the people of Sri Lanka. Pray that as they continue to develop, innovate, and grow, that material blessings and prosperity would not dim their spiritual hunger. 

Pray that employers, landowners, and business people would bless and care for their employees and workers. Pray against the principalities and powers of exploitation and abuse.

As Sri Lankans faithfully seek enlightenment, pray that this especially religious nation would encounter the one, true, living God.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to sweep across the nation, healing the scars, sorrow, and bitterness of war. Pray for a true movement of reconciliation between ethnic and religious groups, bringing peace and unity amid the country’s beautiful and rich diversity.

Pakistan—96 percent of Pakistan’s 204 million people profess the Muslim faith, the nation’s official state religion. People view their religion as cultural and a fundamental aspect of their national identity.

The nation is one of the most unreached with the Gospel in the world, with prayercast.com reporting 98 percent have not heard the gospel. The Bible has been translated into few of the people’s 70 languages.

Hindus and Christians make up a small percentage of the population; Christians number more than 2 million. Both groups experience discrimination, hostility, persecution, and often, deep poverty.

Christian prayer movements are rising up, and many people are accepting Christ as their savior for the first time.

According to the Hindustan Times news, the government has instated a partial shut-down to slow the spread of COVID-19, but many people defy it. Mosques remain open, and quarantine camps on the border with Iran are squalid and lack adequate screening procedures, the Times said. The state seems to be in turmoil as to how to respond to the pandemic. 

Pray that in the midst of pandemic, government leaders and religious authorities would have wisdom, clarity and resources to combat the virus’s spread, and to protect the people without discrimination. Ask God for peace and cooperation – that they would reign amid uncertain, conflict and potential panic. Please pray for God’s gracious protection on the health of the Pakistani people, especially the poor and vulnerable, as the virus spreads. Pray that those who hold power and influence in government, industry and religion will not take this opportunity to engage in corruption, bolstering or expanding power, or instituting oppressive policies. Ask God instead to help the leaders act out of compassion and wisdom and love for the nation.

Pray that during this time, God will pour out the Holy Spirit across the nation. Pray that people will realize their need for God, and hunger for spiritual truth. Pray that Jesus will make Himself clearly and undeniably known to the millions who seek to know and please God with all their hearts. Pray also that God would use His people to shine a light in the darkness, to love and serve their neighbors, and to swiftly move through open doors to share about their hope in Jesus with family members, their communities and friends.

Bangladesh—Of Bangladesh’s population of 157 million people, about 90 percent claim the Muslim faith. Nature is the enemy for this low-lying country with extended coastline; Bangladesh is subject to repeated monsoon storms, violent typhoons and devastating flooding, all of which regularly drive millions out of their homes, destroy infrastructure, crops and livestock.

The people of Bangladesh have engaged in a long-term battle with poverty, pervasive pollution, corruption, lack of clean water and lack of education. The industrious people are making incremental progress in economic development, moving as a nation into lower-middle income status. Much of this progress is due to a movement of communities forming self-help groups who save together and grant each other loans to start up small businesses.

Despite legislating religious freedom, the minority of Christians and other religious groups experience social discrimination and persecution. Missionaries are prohibited.

A national lockdown, including a ban on passenger travel, was instituted through the weekend. Police and military have been deployed to ensure people follow social distancing and quarantine rules. The hardest hit will be people who are subsistence workers or day laborers, and those without access to clean water.

Please pray that the Holy Spirit will move throughout the country to open hearts and minds to Jesus Christ. Where people have never met a Christian or have never heard of Jesus, pray that Jesus Himself will appear to those who hunger and thirst for living water and the bread of life. Pray that strongholds of ignorance and idolatry would be broken. Pray for God to powerfully shatter principalities of generational poverty, corruption, oppression, exploitation and abuse. Ask God in His grace to hold back natural disasters that eradicate progress in infrastructure, and that destroy the businesses and farms families are cultivating.

Pray for God to instill industry and government authorities with wisdom, integrity, compassion and resources to lead the nation in rooting out corruption, and developing creativity and innovation. Pray especially for discernment and clarity about how to protect the nation from COVID-19, without harming the poorest and most vulnerable.

Concerning the countries in these two fields, a local Nazarene leader told us: 

“There are countless people in each South Asian country (and even more in India) who are day laborers. After a day’s work, they take the money earned that day and buy food for that day. Because of the current coronavirus lockdown, most of us are not allowed to leave our apartment at all. That means that many of these day laborers are out of work; immediately out of money; and thus they are immediately or almost immediately out of food for their families. The food security is so low for these families that they enter into a serious crisis within just a day or two of losing their job.”

Let us pray.

Prayer

Our Father in Heaven,

We bring before You the peoples of India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Thank You for blessing millions of people across this part of the world with growing prosperity, spreading access to clean water and adequate nutrition. Thank You that many more people are completing their education, starting their own businesses, benefiting from increased hygiene practices and better health care, and moving their families from extreme poverty into the lower and middle class.

However, millions remain in spiritual poverty, because relatively few people have heard of Your Son, Jesus. Generations have not even heard His name, or ever met a Christian. Hundreds of languages lack the Bible, and millions could not read it anyway, due to lack of access to education.

Father, we know that Your heart is heavy. That You grieve over the millions of people You love with all Your being, but who are unaware of Your love. You long for relationship with them.

God of the Angel Armies, we pray that in Your almighty, powerful love, You would shatter the powers, principalities, and strongholds that enslave people in ignorance about You. Holy Spirit, break through the evil forces that have deceived the people into worshiping other gods or following false religions. Set them free from their spiritual prisons by Your beautiful truth. 

We pray that You would break the chains of oppression, corruption, discrimination, abuse, exploitation and ethnic hatred wherever it is found.

We pray that You would change the hearts of those in power, who use their power to limit religious freedom, and who persecute, imprison and harass believers. Cause them to end laws that seek to stop Your people from telling others about You.

God of all creation, we pray that You would grant people of these nations relief from natural evils. Hold back storms, hurricanes, droughts, and flooding that erase all the progress people make in improving their families’ lives and communities.

Jesus, we pray that as prosperity increases for millions in India and South Asia, that they would be grateful to You. Don’t let material blessings close their hearts to their sense of spiritual need. Instead, let them seek the one Who is blessing them, and find You.

Lord, we ask that You would cause a revival to sweep, across the whole region, bringing millions of people into the Kingdom of God, so that Your Kingdom breaks through into their families, villages, towns, and across their nations. Heal all conflicts; replace hatred with love, and usher in an historic time of peace that all the world will see could only come from You.

We pray all this in the name of Your son, Jesus, whom we trust and believe can do all this. Amen.

Conclusion

The additional scripture passages for today are from:

Ezekiel 37:21–28

John 11:45–53

Day 38 – April 3

Today is Friday, April 3. My name is Gina. Thanks for sticking with me for another week in our Lent journey. I’ll be sharing today’s scripture reading, reflection and prayer with you.

Theme: People don’t always welcome truth

Scripture: Jeremiah 20:7–13

Reflection

On March 30, we talked about how obeying God takes risk, and it doesn’t always result in a happy ending or a protection from pain or loss.

March 31, we talked about the right way to complain to God.

In today’s passage, both devotionals come together in the story of the prophet Jeremiah.

His story starts in Jeremiah Chapter 1, when Jeremiah tells what happened when God first called him:

The Lord said to me, “I knew you before you were formed within your mother’s womb; before you were born I sanctified you and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.”

“O Lord God,” I said, “I can’t do that! I’m far too young! I’m only a youth!”

“Don’t say that,” he replied, “for you will go wherever I send you and speak whatever I tell you to. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I, the Lord, will be with you and see you through.”

Then he touched my mouth and said, “See, I have put my words in your mouth! Today your work begins, to warn the nations and the kingdoms of the world. In accord with my words spoken through your mouth I will tear down some and destroy them, and plant others, nurture them, and make them strong and great.”

Jeremiah spent his career warning God’s people of the coming destruction, a  consequence of their lust for false gods. He warned them that if they did not throw themselves completely on God’s mercy and forsake the bloodthirsty idols they worshiped – worship that included child sacrifice – Babylon would conquer them and take them into exile. Their nation would be no more.

Who wants to hear bad news? Who wants to be confronted about their bad behavior and told their choices are going to yield very painful outcomes?

The religious leaders and the people of Jerusalem and Judah certainly didn’t. So, they persecuted Jeremiah relentlessly. There were death threats. Plots to kill him. He was arrested, beaten, put overnight in stocks by the very priests who claimed to be the spokespeople for God Himself. He was later dropped into a deep, dry well, where he sank into the thick mud at the dark bottom. Jeremiah warned of destruction. The false prophets of the established religion preached good news, peace, and prosperity.

When he languished in prison for his obedience and faithfulness to God, Jeremiah complained bitterly. He gave what the Bible calls a lament.

Biblical laments typically start with a complaint, then beg God for relief, and finally end with a proclamation of trust in God and His faithfulness and goodness, despite what has happened so far.

That is what we see in what we read from Jeremiah today, as he shows us how to complain to God.

Jeremiah goes directly to God and accuses God of deceiving him. When God first called Jeremiah, He had promised in chapter 1, “And don’t be afraid of the people, for I, the Lord, will be with you and see you through.”

No doubt, Jeremiah felt he’d been lied to, sitting there in chains, sore and bleeding from his beating. Why shouldn’t he fear this painful treatment? If God had let this happen to him, would God allow even worse? And where was God anyway? Hadn’t he promised to be with Jeremiah and get him out of things like this?

“I have to give them your messages because you are stronger than I am, but now I am the laughingstock of the city, mocked by all,” Jeremiah complained. 

He goes on to describe the burden and depressing nature of the message he was given: “disaster and horror and destruction.” His preaching was so consistently about “doom and gloom” that people gave him the nickname “terror on every side.” Nobody wanted to be around him anymore. His own friends began plotting to kill him just to get relief from the constant negativity.

Even worse, when Jeremiah resisted the message, tried to pretend he had nothing to say, and keep his mouth shut, that didn’t work either. He bitterly moaned, “And I can’t quit! For if I say I’ll never again mention the Lord—never more speak in his name—then his word in my heart is like fire that burns in my bones, and I can’t hold it in any longer.”

His conviction about the coming disaster left him with no choice. He felt he had to warn people, even though their response was to mock him, avoid him, and punish him for telling them a hard truth.

How do you know you’re a prophet, or that God is giving you a prophetic word? You may know God is speaking, and not you, when you don’t want to speak the word. When you know you will likely pay a high price for proclaiming a hard truth. When it’s very possible that people will be threatened by what you have to say, and attack you rather than praise you. When people willfully misunderstand you, twist your words, attack your character, and accuse you of false motives, you may very well have a word from God.

When you read about all the prophets in the Bible, few of them had happy lives or have happy endings. Anybody who truly understands what it means to be a prophet doesn’t want to be one.

This was certainly Jeremiah’s experience.

So, Jeremiah goes to God and complains directly to him. But, in the very face of his legitimate questions, in spite of his painful reality that stood in direct contrast to what he expected from God, Jeremiah concludes that he ultimately trusts God, no matter what God has allowed to happen.

Jeremiah insists: “But the Lord stands beside me like a great warrior, and before him, the Mighty, Terrible One, they shall stumble.”

He asks for relief when he says, “O Lord Almighty, who knows those who are righteous and examines the deepest thoughts of hearts and minds, let me see your vengeance on them. For I have committed my cause to you.”

And finally, after his night imprisoned in painful stocks, he worships God: “Therefore, I will sing out in thanks to the Lord! Praise him! For he has delivered me, poor and needy, from my oppressors.”

Jeremiah models for us how to complain to God: bringing our accusations directly to God, as part of our open and honest communication in a loving relationship. We lay out, without self-censoring or guilt, how and why we feel wronged. Then, we can ask God for relief. Finally, we express our confidence in God’s love and goodness and power by worshiping Him, and declaring we believe that He is with us and will ultimately fulfill His promises to us.

God may ask us to do something hard. We may need to give up our safety and security, our reputation, an important relationship, or the convenience of a quiet and peaceful life to obey God. We may be asked to speak hard truths to people, communities, or nations whom God is desperately trying to save from their own self-destruction.

I remember when a close friend was going through a very hard time. One night, in tears, she poured out her fear and despair to me. It was the first time in our friendship that I had the powerful sense God wanted me to ask her to make a decision to accept Christ into her life. My heart was pounding as I shared with her about Jesus and asked if she would consider letting Him help her through these hard times. Immediately, she stiffened. The conversation quickly came to an end. And after that night, our friendship was over. She cut off contact with me. I tried repeatedly to re-establish contact, but she never allowed it; she didn’t want to hear about God. I grieved the loss of such a good friend, but I have never regretted offering her the chance to know God like I do. I know I would have regretted for a long time if I hadn’t.

God is love, but sometimes His loving truth feels painful and difficult to people who are careening down a path of self-destruction. People don’t like to hear hard truths or face what we call in English, “tough love.” But it’s necessary for some to be saved. Are we ready to accept the consequences of being God’s messenger, and equally to preserve and deepen our relationship with God through our honesty with Him?

Reflection questions

  1. Have we avoided speaking messages about God’s good and perfect justice and judgment because we fear alienating people or receiving a negative response? Repent now for declining opportunities to warn people about the consequences of their choices, and preventing them the choice to find salvation in Christ.
  2. Do we ourselves prefer only to hear or dwell on positive and comfortable messages about God, and close our ears to hard or difficult truths? Reflect on what you might be afraid of or why you might want to avoid that discomfort.

Let’s pray.

Prayer

Our just and loving Father,

You are good. You are loving. You want everyone to forsake reckless paths of destruction and come to You for life and healing in abundance. And yet, sometimes Your message makes us uneasy, uncomfortable, anxious, or even upset because what we need to do to be transformed by You may at first be painful. We may have to give up things that have made us feel secure, or things we are addicted to. Surrendering to Your lordship for some of us feels really like we have to die to ourselves. But this very difficult decision to forsake ourselves is necessary so that we can become new creations at Your hand.

Give us the courage and strength to hear the hard things You have to tell us. And when You give us a hard or confrontational word for someone else, give us the courage, and even more, Your love that will compel us to deliver that message in truth and love. No matter the consequences.

Strengthen us in the face of ridicule and rejection for standing firm in Your truth and love. And deliver us through the difficult times we may experience for faithfully obeying You.

Thank you for never leaving us, no matter what happens. And we proclaim our worship for You, that Your goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, power, and love are everlasting.

We pray this in the name of Jesus, who proclaimed many hard truths and was murdered for His obedience. Thank You for raising Him from the dead and giving Him the ultimate vindication and victory over His enemies, just as You will do for us.

Amen.

Conclusion

John 10:31–42

Psalm 18:1–7

Sources

https://sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/jeremiah-207-13/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremiah

https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/jeremiah-20/

https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/jeremiah-1/

Day 37 – April 2

Today is Thursday, April 2! Welcome back to another day in our Lent Journey! This is Gina, and I want to thank you for rejoining me for scripture reading, reflection and prayer.

Theme: Our identity is in Christ

Scripture: Genesis 17:1–8 (ESV)

Reflection

There is a lot of talk in our Western societies about identity. It seems that in our era, understanding our own identity, and being able to then express that identity, has become very important to people.

What is identity? Webster’s English Dictionary describes it as “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” A person’s identity is what sets her apart as a unique individual from all other persons.

In some societies, people understand their identity – and thus their purpose and meaning – primarily in relationship to others: I am a mother; I am a husband; I am a brother. I am a grandparent, or an aunt.

In other societies, people primarily understand their identity through their work: I am a carpenter; I am a computer programmer; I am a farmer or rancher; I am a truck driver; I am a police officer or a nurse or a teacher.

In some societies, people have come to believe that their identity is “fluid” and that they can change it at will, such as their gender, sexual orientation, or race or ethnicity.

In our 21st century, identity theft has become one of our most pervasive and disturbing crimes. And “identity politics” shapes our societies and political landscape.

Abusers may manipulate someone to view their identity in a way that allows the abuser more control.

All this implies that our sense of identity is a fundamental aspect of our existence. Our identity shapes how we understand ourselves, our role in our family and society, and drives how we relate to others. Our identity can shape our sense of purpose for our lives.

The scripture today describes a time that God changed a man’s identity.

When God initiated a covenant with Abram, God promised to make Abram the ancestor of a “multitude of nations.” Not just one nation, which would already be quite a big deal. And not even “a couple of nations” or “several nations,” which would be even more astonishing, but a “multitude of nations.” That’s virtually incomprehensible.

God went even further, promising to expand the covenant between the two of them to include all Abram’s offspring for generations. In other words, to include that multitude of nations. He asked of Abram in return only that Abram “be blameless” and “walk before me.” The Living Bible translates this command as “obey me and live as you should.”

To seal this covenant, God changed Abram’s identity. The name Abram in the language of his time meant “high father.” Abraham meant “father of a multitude.”

God has changed the identities of other key figures in the Bible, especially in Abraham’s own family.

God changed the name of Abraham’s wife from Sarai to Sarah, which means “princess” because she would become the mother of this multitude of nations.  Abraham’s grandson, was Jacob, whose name meant “supplanter.” To supplant, in English, means to use betrayal or deception to take power from another person. Jacob had done that to his older twin brother. But when Jacob had a life-changing encounter with his grandfather’s God, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning “one who struggles with God.” Abraham’s God became Israel’s God.

Later, Jesus changed His disciple Simon’s identity by renaming him Peter. The name Simon meant “God has heard.” Peter means “rock,” and Jesus then said that on this rock He would build His church.

Sometime after Saul was struck temporarily blind by his encounter with the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, he became a zealous missionary for Christ. He changed his name to Paul, which means “small” or “humble,” to signify that although once arrogant, he had been forever humbled by meeting Jesus.

In each of these stories, we see that God asks someone to leave behind part or all of their former identity to embrace a new one. Their identity is now oriented around their relationship with God. Who they were before they encountered the living Creator God is not who they remain afterward. They are changed.

Some of us take pride and confidence from knowing and being rooted in our identity. We feel secure knowing we are living fully into who we were designed to be, whether or not we recognize and credit God as that designer.

Some have pride and confidence in being a mother, having assurance they are really good at it. Some have realized that they are a gifted business person or entrepreneur. Others have found their path in life as an excellent teacher, taking deep joy and purpose from shaping and mentoring young people every day.

Others of us desperately wish we could change our identity, and many of us try. Some feel that, from their very birth, something deep inside is skewed or off-target. Some can’t seem to find the purpose that others so easily recognize and embrace, whether it is a purpose found in relationship to others, or in finding that vocation or talent that fills their lives with meaning.

There are times when we go through a radical life change, such as a loss of a job, loss of a relationship, or a permanent change in our health. We might ask, “Who am I now?” And we don’t know the answer. It is as if the very foundation is pulled from beneath us. We feel lost.

Some of us feel that we have been assigned an identity by others, and it is ill-fitting. We don’t want to be the social outcast that others have told us we are, or the low-achiever, the one who struggles in school or at work. We don’t want to be identified as someone who’s depressed, or who has an auto-immune disorder, or who is barren. We have had bosses or teachers tell us we’re lazy or undisciplined, and we start to wonder if that is who we are. The world has told us that we’re no more than our gender or race or caste or economic status, but we know that can’t be all we are. There must be more. Yet, then, who are we?

The answer is waiting, for every person who has given their lives to Jesus: Our identity is now found in Him.

When the world tries to tell us who it thinks we should be, or our enemy whispers lies about who we are, we can set all that aside and look to Jesus to understand our true identity in relation to Him. It simplifies everything when we no longer define ourselves by who other people think we are, or who we want to be, but only by who God says we are.

God says we are His children. Jesus says we are the beloved and beautiful bride of Christ. As the Holy Spirit grows us to be like Christ, we can come to say that our identity is loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, persevering, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled.

When we find our identity in Jesus, we can become assured, confident, and at peace with ourselves. We are rooted in our only real purpose in life: To love God, to be like Christ, and to love others as we learn to love ourselves. That’s it. It’s simple. Beautiful. Reassuring.

No matter who people tell you you are, no matter who the enemy tries to convince you you are, no matter what you fear you might be, if you have given your life to Jesus and are following Him, you are a beloved, precious, treasured child of God.

That is your identity.

Reflection questions

  1. When someone asks me who I am, what are the first words that come to mind?
  2. What have I seen as my purpose or identity in life?
  3. Are there aspects of my identity that trouble me or cause me shame? Give those parts of your identity to God, and ask Him to give you back a new identity in Him.

Let’s pray.

Prayer

Our Father,

By acknowledging You as our father, we identify as Your children. By learning more about who You are, we learn more about who we are in relation to You. You are our creator. You knew us when we were still in the womb, and You designed us carefully as unique, one-of-a-kind individuals, with a purpose for our lives. And this purpose is simply to know You, to love You, and to be loved by You. And for that love to flow out of us to the world around us. That’s it.

What a beautiful, restful blessing to know that You give each of us our identity as Your precious, treasured, beloved child. We need no other identity than that. Nothing and no one can take away how You see us and who You tell us we are. Our identity is secure in You.  Strengthen our confidence in our identity as Your children.

For those identities that cause us shame, guilt, or burden us, we give these old identities to You. We pray that You will make us new. Make us like Jesus. Thank You that You remake us in Your image, as we surrender to You and allow the Spirit to work in us.

We love You and we need You.

In the name of our Lord Jesus, we pray, Amen.

Conclusion

The additional scripture readings for today are from:

John 8:51–59

Psalm 105:4–11

Day 36 – April 1

Today is Wednesday, April 1. Welcome back to our Lent Journey podcast! My name is Gina, and I’m leading you today in our scripture reading, reflection and prayer.

Theme: God deserves our loyalty simply because of who He is

Scripture: Daniel 3:14–20, 24–28 (Living Bible)

Reflection

To establish the larger context for this short story, we should recall that before this story occurred, the nation of Israel had repeatedly and for generations rebelled against God’s explicit command not to worship any gods or idols except for Him alone. Over and over they had hurt Him by prostituting themselves to other gods, gods who had not done all the wonderful things that He had done for them. He had rescued them from centuries of brutal enslavement in Egypt, performed numerous miracles that provided for all their needs during 40 years of transition in the desert, before granting them a land or prosperity as a nation of their own.

For all those amazing things God did for them, in return He got rebellion. He received faithlessness. There were even periods of time when His people completely forgot about Him, so that whole generations had never even heard of Him.

From the very beginning, God had warned them that if they broke their end of the covenant relationship they had agreed to with God, He would stop protecting and caring for them. So, when the Babylonian Empire swept through the region, and conquered their nation, carrying off half the people to slavery in Babylon, God was good on His word. Now, these three young Jewish men found themselves exiled in Babylon.

When the king decided to unite all the diverse nations he ruled under an empire-wide religion, it was on threat of death. Every citizen of his vast domain was coerced to be part of his new religious cult.

The problem was that, ironically, idolatry was what had gotten the Israelite people into this situation in the first place. Back in Israel, they had had the freedom to worship God if they chose, and they had chosen not to. Now they were stripped of that freedom. If they didn’t worship this new god, they would be killed—in an agonizing way.

They might have said, “Look, we don’t have a choice. It’s do this or die.”

They might also have said to themselves, “We’ve already been abandoned by God for our generation’s refusal to worship Him alone. We’re here, in slavery. We’ve completely messed up. What’s one more mistake? We might as well just go all the way and worship this idol, too.” 

But, the three Jewish men decided that, rather than compound their generation’s sins with more personal sins, they would stop cycle of sin and rebellion here and now. It was time to do the right thing, even if they died for it. They knew they did have a choice. No matter how awful it was, they had a choice.

My favorite part of this story is when they tell the king, “Our God has the power to save us from your threats. It doesn’t mean He’ll do it, though. And that’s OK. Even if God doesn’t save us, and we die for our loyalty to Him, we’re still going to be loyal. Our obedience and loyalty is not contingent on God saving us. It’s because God deserves our loyalty. Period. Full stop.”

Sometimes, we think that if we just obey God and do the right thing, we are guaranteed to avoid any discomfort, inconvenience, or sacrifices. Countless stories of Christians obeying God over the past 2,000 years prove that’s simply not true. People refuse to participate in corruption at work and lose their jobs as a result. People speak up against injustice on behalf of the vulnerable, and then draw the anger and retaliation of those committing that injustice.

Around the world, in every generation, faithful believers have been tortured, discriminated against, imprisoned, or killed. They haven’t gotten the happy ending that we see here, when God dramatically rescues the three men from the blazing fire in full view of the king and all the people.

It’s wonderful that for these three men, God showed up to demonstrate his glorious power and might to rescue them from the king’s punishment. But the three men didn’t expect to be rescued. I’m sure they were weak with fear at the prospect of being burned alive. But their decision to turn the tide of their nation’s sin by obeying God and accepting the consequences showed their love for and loyalty to the one true God.

That’s what obedience to God looks like. He asks us to trust Him, and to give him our allegiance. But, most of the time, God does not assure us of the earthly outcome of our obedience. He does, however, assure us of His presence with us in our obedience, the strength to do what He asks, and of an eternity spent in His glorious, loving, and joy-filled presence.

The bottom line is that God deserves our loyalty and obedience. Because He is who He is. Because He is our great, mighty, and loving God. Because He is the only God.

Full stop.

Reflection questions

  1. Why have I put my faith in God? Is it because of what I think I will get out of it? Or is it simply that He deserves my loyalty and obedience because of who He is?
  2. Is there any area where I have been afraid to obey God because I fear losing something I value?
  3. Where might God be asking me to live out my loyalty to Him this week?

Prayer

Our mighty and powerful God,

You deserve all the worship and praise we have to offer. You deserve all the glory. You alone are worthy of our complete allegiance. You deserve all that we have to give You, our entire selves. You deserve all this just because of who You are. Because You are God. You created us. Everything we have, our lives, the air we breathe, are gifts from You. Even if You never give us another thing, we owe You our complete loyalty and obedience now and forever.

Help us not to lose sight of all that we owe You. And thank You that You don’t coerce us to worship You. You give us the freedom to choose. No matter what happens, no matter where our obedience and loyalty leads us, You are good and gracious to go with us into the earthly rewards here and now, or the fires and trials that might await us. You will sustain us through all things, which is more than we could dare to ask or deserve.

You are good. You are our everything.

We love you.

In the worthy and glorious name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Conclusion

John 8:31–42

Day 35- March 31

Today is Tuesday, March 31. My name is Gina, and I welcome you back in our fifth week of Lent, as we give a few moments each day in reading God’s word, listening to Him, and praying together.

Theme: God invites us to complain to Him

Scripture: Numbers 21: 4-9 (The Message)

Reflection

There are times when we experience a conflict with someone. It could be a spouse, a friend, a coworker, or someone at church. We have two choices: We can bitterly complain about that person to other people, making no attempt to work out the conflict with the person directly in order to preserve and grow our relationship. This is selfish and hurtful. Or we can go to that person directly, and in humble love share gently about the difficulty we are having with them, with the intention to resolve it together so that we can grow and deepen our relationship. This is loving.

The Israelite people, who had recently been rescued from centuries of slavery, abuse and oppression in Egypt, decided to take the first approach concerning God. We can learn from the story about how to complain the right way.

First, if we set this story into the larger context of the book of Numbers, and the even larger context of the Bible as a whole, we can see that there is a lot of complaining in the Bible. (See: Job; 1 Kings 17; Numbers 11: 1-4; Proverbs 19:3; Exodus 14: 11-12) In fact, there is an entire book of the Old Testament, Lamentations, dedicated to bringing complaints of suffering, bitterness and loss before God. But there are two ways that biblical figures complain.

Some, like the Israelite people in this story, complain against God. Others complain to God.

When we complain against God, we express an attitude that we know better than God—idolatry committed by putting ourselves in God’s rightful position as our Lord. And we reveal that we think God has done something wrong to us. The former is a rebellion against God’s authority. The latter is a charge against God’s very character as one who says He only works together everything for our good.

This is dangerous ground. Rebellion, and boldly charging God with acts of evil, will damage our relationship with Him. We make it harder to hear the Holy Spirit, because we are hardening our heart and closing our ears to Him as we distance ourselves from God. We hurt God when we choose this position—because God hurts when we hurt ourselves. We also invite discipline from God, just as the Israelites did.

We read this short story today in isolation from the larger story of all the miracles and provisions God had worked as he chose a backward, crushed, and enslaved multitude as His chosen people. What had they done to earn his favor and his attention? Nothing. Not one thing. He crushed one of humankind’s most powerful civilizations, Egypt, to free them from its oppressive power. He miraculously provided water in the desert, as he led them toward a land of their own that he had promised them. He appeared to them daily as a giant, billowing cloud that impossibly remained stationary near their encampments; and at night he made sure he was comfortingly visible as a tower of fire. When the billowing cloud or the tower of fire began to move away, the people knew it was time to pack up their camp and travel closer to their promised land. God also provided them a miraculous type of bread that covered the ground every morning when they woke up. All they had to do was pick up the pieces. This meant that after centuries of hard, back-breaking labor for the Egyptians, God gave them rest. They didn’t have to plant, cultivate, and harvest crops under the searing sun to eat. The food was just laying there, outside their tents, ready to be gathered up and eaten. The Bible tells us that it tasted like a delicate pastry.

After all these good, loving and gracious things that this mighty creator God had done for them, they had the arrogance to complain against God for supposedly treating them badly. They repeatedly complained that He had abandoned them to hunger, thirst and death in the desert, although they had never once been hungry, thirsty, or died because of His neglect. They even said that they preferred their violent and abusive Egyptian overlords to this God.

Worse, the Israelites did not just have a weak moment and complain against God once. They did it over and over and over. They illustrated the ultimate victim mentality. No matter how many wonders and miracles and loving provisions God showered on them, it was never enough. They demanded more, giving Him no credit for all that He had already done. And if He didn’t give them exactly what they wanted, the moment they wanted it, they shrilly cried out that He was a terrible God, and they didn’t want Him anymore. It was a power struggle. Can you imagine how much that must have hurt God to see and hear?

Disciplining them strongly was the only way to prevent them from recklessly and foolishly running back to Egypt and its slavery. And so, God disciplined them. 

This is what we risk when we complain against God, refuse to give Him credit for all the ways He has blessed us until now, and then charge him with not being good.

But God does invite us to complain—to Him, in the context of our loving relationship with Him, rather than just about Him. When we run first to God, trusting Him with our pain and questions and cries for relief, God enfolds us in His loving arms and listens carefully. When we complain to God about our fears and struggles and feelings of abandonment, we demonstrate that we value the relationship enough to work on it with God. We also demonstrate that, although it’s hard for us to see right now, at the root of everything, we hold firm to our belief God is good, and that what He is allowing to happen or doing is ultimately for our good, even if it’s painful in the moment. We prove that we trust Him enough to hear our criticisms and complaints, and believe that we can improve the relationship by working on it together. Instead of engaging in a power struggle, we come to God in humility and surrender, asking that God change our situation or the way He is leading us.

It’s a beautiful thing that we have a God who invites us to complain. He wants us to bring our criticisms, questions, and even our bitterness and damaged trust in Him to Him. There is nothing we can say to Him that will alienate Him, as long as we do it with the desire to maintain and deepen the relationship. What a loving God we have!

Reflection questions

  1. Have I complained against and about someone without making an effort to talk through the relationship with the person? If so, apologize to God, and pray that the Spirit would lead you in the right way to work on the relationship with that person.
  2. Am I afraid to bring my complaints and criticisms about God to Him and talk them over with Him? He wants you to trust Him enough with your honest feelings, questions and complaints. Talk to Him sometime this week about how you feel.
  3. Have I taken the risky position of charging God with doing evil to me, and the posture that I know better what is good for me than He does? Apologize now for this attitude, and bring it to God. Ask Him to help heal and soften your heart, and to transform your feelings of disappointment and bitterness to joy and love.

Let’s pray.

Our patient and loving God,

It’s so wonderful to know that You can handle, and even invite, all our harshest criticisms, complaints, disappointments, and questions. To be able to have such an open and honest relationship with You, as the God of the universe, is like nothing we experience with almost any other person. Thank You that sharing our complaints with and to You actually grows and deepens our relationship with You, rather than damaging or endangering it.

When we are tempted to back away from You, to think we know better what is good for us, and to charge You with doing evil to us, protect us from giving in to that temptation. In our weakness, if we fall into this temptation, please forgive us and lovingly lead us back to You.

Teach us how to open our hearts and give You our complete honesty in a posture of trust and surrender.

Thank You for Your endless and unconditional love.

In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Conclusion

John 8:21–30

Psalm 102:15–22

Day 34- March 30

Today is Monday, March 30. My name is Gina, and I welcome you back in our fifth week of Lent, as we give a few moments each day in reading God’s word, listening to Him, and praying together.

Theme: Following Jesus requires risk

Scripture: John 8:12-20 (The Message)

Reflection

Choosing to follow Jesus is risky. Deciding where to put our faith is about calculating risk and making a choice, then living with that choice.

In Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago, the Hebrew nation lived under the oppression of the Roman Empire, waiting for their Messiah to come and set them free.

There had been others before Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah. They gathered followers, created a spectacle, and then they and their followers were killed for stirring up too much attention from Rome.

This presented a problem for the Jews because their God had promised them a Messiah, a savior. The Jews had come to expect that this Messiah would deliver them from the authority of Rome and restore their independence as a nation.

The Jewish people were then between a rock and a hard place, as we say in English. What if they believed a man who claimed to be the Messiah and they took the calculated risk to follow him in revolt against Rome, but then it turned out they were wrong? That he was just a man? They risked the full fire and fury of Rome coming down on them for following a false Messiah, who would not have the power to protect them from the resulting anger and punishment of Rome.

This reveals that they feared human governments more than God, although it’s hard to blame them. The Roman Empire was everywhere and in everything around them. They could physically touch it, hear it, smell it, feel it, and it regulated almost everything in their lives.

In their vulnerability, they needed to be absolutely sure about the Messiah. They needed to reduce their risk as much as possible. So, when Jesus made statements that strongly implied he was the Messiah they had been waiting for, they demanded proof. And proof upon proof.

In today’s passage, they invoked the rules they had set for the courtroom, where several witnesses were required for a judge to make a ruling. “Where are your witnesses?,” they demanded of Jesus. To be fair, they were invoking the very rules God set down for them when He founded their nation (see Deuteronomy). God knew that humans will try to deceive one another for our own gain, so He said a single witness against someone was not enough. Two was the absolute minimum. Three was even better. (Even so, we see in several biblical stories that humans corrupted this safety net; people were paid off or coerced to give false testimony against someone. This happened in Jesus’ trial before He was crucified.)

Jesus must have seen the hilarious absurdity of people thinking they could judge God according to their own standards and rules. In human courtrooms, witnesses are required because humans lie. God is Truth embodied and cannot lie. Why would He need witnesses? Their demand insulted the God of Truth Himself.

If anyone is equipped to make judgments, it is God, not humans. We arrogantly believe we can attribute motives to people’s actions. It is even more ridiculous when we attribute motives to strangers we have never met. Because, in truth, only God can see into the human heart.

In today’s passage, Jesus said, “You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father.”

Then, He goes on to challenge His listeners, both then and now: “You’re looking right at me and you don’t see me. How do you expect to see the Father? If you knew me, you would at the same time know the Father.”

Jesus asked them – and is asking us – to take a risk; to believe in Him even though there aren’t mountains of scientific data and piles of cold, hard facts to put our trust in.

The reality is, putting our trust in scientific data and so-called facts is itself a risk. How many times have humans made new discoveries that cancelled out the absolute and unquestionable “facts” everyone had believed for a very long time? After thousands of years of believing the earth was flat, we found out, in fact, it is round. After hundreds of years of believing the earth was at the center of the universe, we discovered, in fact, the sun is the center of our solar system. In the 1980s, we taught our school children that the next ice age was coming. Decades later, we say the earth is warming. We believed that petroleum was formed deep in the earth from the remains of dead dinosaurs. Now it is said fossil fuels aren’t made from fossils at all, but from microscopic bacteria.

The number of mysteries that remain in our natural, physical world, and even of the human body and brain, outnumber the mysteries we have solved. Is it really riskier to transfer our trust from our severely limited collections of data and proofs to Jesus?

We already put our unquestioning faith in things most of us don’t understand, such as the mechanics of our cars or the way airplanes work. We flip a light switch and expect electricity without having ever seen the wiring hidden behind our walls, let alone understanding how it works. We just know it does. We have seen time and time again that when we turn the key on our cars, the engine roars to life. It is only a surprise to us when it doesn’t.

Is trusting Jesus a calculated risk? Yes, of course. There is risk in many, many things we do every day, including stepping outside our front door, or taking advice from our doctor. It’s just that, for some reason, some of us want iron-clad proof about Jesus when we don’t demand that concerning other decisions in our life that require a risk.

Faith is defined as believing in something without proof; to put one’s confidence or trust in a person or thing. Faith is not blind or anti-intellectual, however. There is plenty of evidence in favor of and against the existence and revealed character of God. Evidence is not the same as proof, but gives faith something to stand on—either way. Faith, then, is believing in and trusting God in spite of any and all evidence to the contrary.

Whether we like it or not, faith is a risk. And we’re not just talking about the step of faith one must take in accepting Jesus Christ as God. We’re talking about all the little risky acts of faith Jesus asks us to take every day.

Such as, the faith and risk it takes to obey Him. There is inherent risk in trusting Him with everything: with our children or parents; with our spouse or friends; trusting Him when we sense He’s asking us to have integrity at work, even though it might cost us our job; taking the risk to move our families and leave behind our stability and security because God is leading us to another location.

We take a risk when God asks us to visit a sick friend, and we’re worried we might get sick, too. We risk our reputation when we defend the innocent or the vulnerable against our own society by rebuking forces that oppress or exploit them. We risk losing precious relationships when we sense the Spirit asking us to challenge a friend or family member who is doing something wrong or unwise.

Do we really believe Jesus? Do we believe Him anymore than the Pharisees and Sadducees, who demanded proof to ensure they wouldn’t bring all of Rome down on their heads by agreeing to follow Jesus?

We prove that we do believe Jesus each time we obey Him, even though He hasn’t assured us of the outcome, or there’s the possibility it might cost us something precious.

Obedience to God is a calculated risk every time. Are we willing to accept the risks?

Reflection questions

  1. Have I taken the risk to put my faith in Jesus as God, and Lord of my life? If not, pray that God will give you the courage to step into that risk.
  2. Do I claim to believe in Jesus, but my fear sometimes outweighs my courage to obey Him when He asks me to do something risky? Pray that God will give you the courage to take the risk to follow Jesus and obey Him every day.
  3. Is there an area of obedience God is calling me to, that I’ve been hesitating to obey? Repent right now, and ask God for the opportunity to take that risk of obedience.

Let’s pray.

Jesus,

Thank You for giving us the opportunity, over and over again, to put our faith in You. Thank You that You never send us into risky situations without going before us, beside us and behind us, all the way. Although it’s true that sometimes our obedience to You will cost us in small or great ways, You do not ask us to sacrifice more than You did when You followed Your risky calling all the way to death on a cross. Yet, You demonstrate through Your resurrection, Your conquest of death itself, that all our risks will be rewarded by our daily resurrection in You here and now, and our eternal resurrection, when we will spend everlasting life in Your loving presence.

It’s hard, Jesus, to step out in faith when we aren’t assured of the outcomes of our obedience. We love our families, the things we own, our reputations, and our health. It’s scary, sometimes, to obey You. We fear losing what we love. Please, fill us with the courage to step into the risks You call us to take in your name. Although we may be frightened or nervous, help us to overcome our fears to obey You and receive the rewards You promise us.

Thank You for Your patient understanding of our human limitations and our fears. But thank You also for raising us above our limitations in Your power and love. We need You and we love You.

In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Conclusion

John 8:1-11

Psalm 23

Source: https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-8.html

Day 33- March 29

It’s Sunday, March 29. And we are beginning our fifth week of Lent by interceding for our brothers and sisters in Christ across Central Europe.

My name is Sandra, and I’ll be leading you today in our scripture reading and prayer.

Theme: “I will cause you to rise again”

Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14 (Living Bible)

Intercession

During our Lenten journey, each weekend we are interceding for a different field of the Eurasia Church of the Nazarene. A field is a cluster of several countries where we have churches, and there are seven fields within the Eurasia Region. You can find out more about our fields and regions at www.eurasiaregion.org.

Last weekend we interceded for Eastern Mediterranean Field. The weekend before, we prayed for Northern Europe. On the second weekend, we covered Commonwealth of Independent States with our prayers. The first weekend, we prayed over the nations of the Western Mediterranean.

This weekend, we will pray for the nations of Central Europe.

The Church of the Nazarene includes in this field: Denmark, Norway, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Kosova, and Albania. There are also Nazarenes present in Serbia and Finland, meeting for worship or establishing new work. The countries are grouped together because the Church of the Nazarene in each nation is judged to be at similar levels of development, making resourcing, support and leadership to them together more seamless.

To watch a video about the Central Europe Field, find the link in today’s transcript on our website at www.lentjourney.org.

In all of these nations, Nazarenes are adapting quickly and creatively to the new restrictions and needs created by the global spread of the corona virus. The district superintendent over Norway, Finland, Poland and Denmark asks for prayer that Nazarenes there will hear God’s voice and be the church, embracing community even as they must do so through physical separation. Also, he asked that God would show the church concrete ways to respond to the needs that arise, and the growing sense of loneliness that some experience.

Ask that God will use His people to spread encouragement, helping people overcome fear and anxiety. Pray that hearts will open to God, and that the Church will share the hope, peace and joy Christ offers during trials and difficulties.

Nazarenes across these countries have shared their following additional prayer requests:

Denmark— Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring revival among the many Christians who have become disillusioned by the institutional church. Pray for biblical thinking to replace the secular, postmodern worldview prevalent among youth. Pray for financial support for full-time pastors and teachers who are anchored in the truths of the Bible. Pray that believers will find ways to share the gospel and disciple immigrants from other cultures who have traditionally identified with other religions. The Nazarene coffee shop in Greve closed on March 14, and some of the international volunteers returned to their home countries. Pray that God would provide the coffee shop ministry resources to continue after quarantines are lifted.

Finland—Please pray for a Korean Nazarene church that paused its physical meetings in February to slow the spread of corona virus. They now meet through video conferencing. Pray that God would actually bless and expand their influence and ministry as they shift to gathering via technology.

Poland— Poland is fast becoming an international hub for foreigners seeking stability and employment. Please pray that Churches will unite and reach out to this new demography. Pray for Polish Christians to resist the temptations of materialism, secularism and affluence to remain passionately committed to following Jesus and sharing Him with others. Pray that God’s people will receive favor from other denominations and church leaders, from their neighbors and communities, and from government authorities. Please pray that church workers will have fresh wisdom and develop an effective strategy in engaging the unchurched.

Norway— Pray for a movement of the Holy Spirit among the 86% of the population who are church members but do not attend worship. Pray for vibrant churches to be planted among immigrants from other faith backgrounds. Pray that Norway’s long missionary history would lead to a missional outreach toward its own people. Pray for the Portuguese-speaking Nazarene church in Norway to continue growing and ministering during corona virus quarantine measures.

Romania— Pray for our established Nazarene churches in Romania, as they continue to minister in their local communities. Pray for our national pastors and their families, as well as our mission team members, as they work together to disciple new leaders, plant new churches where we are already ministering, and share Christ with incredible passion and conviction. Ask God to bless the compassionate ministries that are being the hands and feet of Jesus to marginalized groups in this country: the survivors of human trafficking, neglected children, those with special needs, the elderly, and the poor.

Albania—Pray the Body of Christ will grow in unity, and become more robust in discipleship and maturity. Pray for God to show the church where there are people whose hearts are open to the gospel. Pray for an outpouring of God’s abundant resources to enable the church to meet the needs of people around them, and to facilitate expanding ministry. Ask God to bless the church with mature, theologically-rooted Christian leaders and pastors, and that He would resource them with all they need to provide for their families while serving the church and their communities.

Bulgaria— Please pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit bringing new boldness and power to the church, filling it with God’s love and grace. May God lead the congregations in a new hunger and thirst for righteousness and holiness. Pray that the communities will see the love and light of Christ shining through them. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ to embrace Christian education and discipleship and work for maturity in Christ. 

Croatia— Please pray for the country of Croatia while so many Croatians leave their homes and try to find employment and life resources elsewhere. Pray that believers will remain in their communities to lead the church and preach the gospel to neighbors and family members. Please pray for Christian churches in Croatia to be united in their faith and mission, especially while they are trying to meet the needs of utterly discouraged and poor people. Pray for the church to be a strong source of peace and hope to others, especially in the midst of aftershocks from a recent earthquake, that are complicating national efforts to stem the spread of corona virus.

Slovenia—Pray that God would breathe a spirit of Pentecost into the Church in Slovenia, empowering them to boldly preach the gospel and compassionately meet the needs of Slovenians. Ask God to deeply root His people in the Word and the power of its truth.

Kosova—Pray for the small remnant of faithful believers in Kosova, that they would find opportunities to confidently share their faith with family members, neighbors, classmates and coworkers. Pray for open doors to minister to others’ needs. Ask God to bless the church with mature, theologically-rooted Christian leaders and pastors, and that He would resource them with all they need to provide for their families while serving the church and their communities. Ask God to grant favor to His people from their families, communities, civil leaders and government authorities. Pray for a spirit of unity among all God’s people across the country.

Serbia—The Church of the Nazarene joined forces with local and national groups to serve refugees pouring into the country from the Syrian civil war and other regional situations of violence or persecution. Pray for the country of Serbia as they work with the refugee situation and integrate people into their lives and culture. Pray for the church to be present and connecting with local Serbians as well as those integrating to grow the Kingdom and glorify God. Pray for new Nazarene missionaries to Serbia as they prepare and transition to living and serving in Belgrade, Serbia.

Let’s pray.

Prayer

Our great God

Thank You that You are now and always at work with Your people in Kosova, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Poland.

In some of these countries, Your people experience poverty, or must work hard all the time to provide for their families to stay out of poverty and debt. This limits the time they can give to ministry and church leadership. Others are marginalized by oppressive and aggressive secularism. Some are actively opposed by restrictive government legislation that refuses to recognize their churches or limits their worship and outreach. Many are faithfully swimming upstream against societal forces of spiritual apathy and atheism. Believers in two of these nations are in the religious minority, and because they love You, they endure discrimination and persecution from their families, neighbors or employers, and larger societies. Your people often and everywhere suffer from lack of unity as the Body of Christ.

Our father, we stand with our brothers and sisters of Central Europe in prayer. We pray that You would breathe Your Holy Spirit into Your followers, just as You did the disciples on the first day of Pentecost. Empower them with boldness and victory in Jesus over all the forces that oppose them, and try to weaken and discourage them.

In many areas, Your people are fractured by differences over theology or tradition. We pray that You would ignite a revival rooted in repentance for past failures to faithfully be the Church as Christ envisioned us. Please reconcile Your people across their differences, so they find unity in their love for You, Jesus; an unshakable unity that will unleash the full power of Your Holy Spirit to transform and heal their nations.

We ask that You would raise up hundreds of Christian leaders and pastors, and anoint them with Your Holy Spirit. Please secure them in the theological truths of Your word. Help them to grow in Your wisdom, discernment, compassion, and humility, so that they can lead Your people with integrity, courage and love. Please continue to expand systems and resources for discipling pastors and lay people to deepen their maturity and faith. Provide the financial means and opportunity for many to pursue quality theological education.

Where there are refugees and asylum seekers making a new life in these countries, please use this opportunity to introduce them to believers who know You personally. Invigorate Your people with love and a burden for immigrants who, for the first time, have the freedom to investigate Christianity and to have relationships with Your people. Open doors for a revival among immigrants across Central Europe.

As the nations of Central Europe are affected by the COVID-19 virus, please give Your people a spirit of creativity and flexibility, so that they can rapidly adapt worship, prayer and discipleship through available technology and other means to gather differently. Lord, please use Your Church at this time of crisis as lighthouses in the storm, shining brightly throughout their nations so that many realize they can exchange their fear for peace and hope in You. Enable Your people to minister to the most vulnerable and the weak.

Father, we pray that You would grant Your people with favor from governments and community leaders; that restrictive laws would be loosened so Your people have greater freedom to worship and to minister to others.

Lord, we know that only You can achieve such great miracles, and yet doing so would take no effort from You. You have all the power, all the wisdom, and You love each person in each of these nations. Please, Holy Spirit, continue to call the people to You, and to defeat our enemy wherever he opposes You. We believe You can do all these things, and we pray this in the wonderful name of Jesus. Amen.

Conclusion

The additional scripture passages for today are from:

Romans 8:6-11

John 11:1-45

Psalm 130

Gina looks forward to starting a new week of Lent with you on Monday, as we give time each day to gather in the presence of Jesus, preparing ourselves for Easter.

(Source: Prayercast.com)

Day 32 – March 28

It’s Saturday, March 28. And we are finishing our fourth week of Lent! We are coming together across many nations, miles and time zones to intercede for nations, peoples, and our brothers and sisters in Eurasia.

My name is Sandra and I’ll be leading you today in our scripture reading and intercession for the peoples of Central Europe.

Theme: God offers the nations His living water, if they will believe

Scripture: John 7:37-53 (The Message)

Intercession

During our Lenten journey, each weekend we are interceding for a different field of the Eurasia Church of the Nazarene. A field is a cluster of several countries where we have churches, and there are seven fields within the Eurasia Region. You can find out more about our fields and regions at www.eurasiaregion.org.

Last weekend we interceded for Eastern Mediterranean Field. The weekend before, we prayed for Northern Europe. On the second weekend, we covered Commonwealth of Independent States with our prayers. The first weekend, we prayed over the nations of the Western Mediterranean.

This weekend, we will pray for the nations of Central Europe.

The Church of the Nazarene includes in this field: Denmark, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Kosova, Finland and Norway. The countries are grouped together because the Church of the Nazarene in each nation is judged to be at similar levels of development, making resourcing, support and leadership to them together more seamless.

Although the denomination shares similarities in development, culturally these countries are distinguished by incredible diversity.

Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Romania, Croatia, Albania, Serbia and Kosova share a Communist legacy. Norway, Finland, and Denmark are northern European in culture and geographic position. Two countries are home to large percentages of people who practice the Muslim faith. Others have a rich Catholic or Orthodox heritage. Affluence and poverty vary widely, including several of the richest countries in Europe, and several of the poorest.

All are impacted in various ways by the spread of corona virus, and many have closed their borders, ordering residents to remain at home except for emergencies or essential work. On March twenty-second, Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, was shaken by its strongest earthquake in 140 years. This complicates the nation’s stay-at-home orders designed to slow the virus spread.

Here are ways to pray for each country:

Denmark—Danish people enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. Despite a long Lutheran heritage, with 76 percent of Danes claiming membership, just 2 percent regularly attend church. Half of that two percent actually report being atheist or agnostic. Pray that although Danish people are secure in their affluence, they will become deeply aware of their spiritual poverty, and will hunger for a relationship with God.

Poland—Eighty-seven percent of Poland’s 38 million people proudly claim the Catholic faith. Yet, Because Poland is blessed with a thriving economy, many Pastors sayd that interest in God, especially among the young people, has greatly diminished. Pray that a movement of the Holy Spirit will overpower the forces of materialism and secularism, igniting a spiritual revival across Poland. Pray that millions come to a personal saving faith in Jesus Christ, and a missional spirit is unleashed across the nation.

Finland— A historically educated and wealthy nation, Finland still struggles to recover from the 2008 recession, a cause of worry for the aging members of its population. Prayercast.com says that over 80 percent of people in Finland identify themselves as Christians. The church is known for sending out missionaries to all nations. However, local church attendance has dramatically declined, with only eight percent attending a religious service once a month. Just three percent attend weekly. Some churches are adopting a secularized view of the Gospel. Pray that a Holy Spirit movement would reignite a national desire for repentance and a new, fresh pursuit of God anew as their source of hope and life.

Norway—Christianity became the state religion more than 1,000 years ago. Today, eighty-six percent of Norway’s 5 million people who are members of a church, mostly Lutheran, do not attend for worship. Affluence may have allowed Norwegians to become lukewarm in their faith, as their security and wealth comes from their own hard work and economic blessings. They have forgotten their need for God. A growing minority of immigrants belong only nominally to other faiths, leaving them open to the gospel. Pray that a new spirit of Pentecost would sweep across Norway, among the native population and immigrants alike.

Romania—Romanians still suffer from the lasting economic damage of Communism. About 25 percent of the 21 million people live below the poverty line. Romania has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. Pervasive drug abuse, prostitution, and pornography reflect widespread despair and generational cycles of broken families, even though 80 percent of people belong to the Orthodox church. A misunderstanding of Christianity as a cultural tradition obscures the possibility for a personal saving relationship with Jesus. Pray that a rejuvenated hope in Jesus would set the Romanian people free from the strongholds that enslave them.

Albania—Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Albania was ruled by a Communist regime. It has struggled economically ever since, remaining one of Europe’s poorest nations. The business climate is unstable due to subsistence farming and regular energy shortages. Evangelical Christianity is growing rapidly, but could be stronger in unity, and more robust in discipleship and maturity. Pray that Albania would be spiritually revived through a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit, and be freed from the principalities and powers of poverty and hopelessness.

Bulgaria—About 60 percent of Bulgarians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church as a matter of cultural identity, even if most don’t attend regularly. Few know they can have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Despite shaking off its Communist government years ago, the country is still oppressed by with corruption and economic stagnation. One area of Bulgaria, called Montana, is the most economically deprived area of the entire European Union. Most people in Bulgaria who want to make a better life for themselves and their children have emigrated to other parts of the EU. This rapid drain of young, educated, working families has crippled the economy further. A relatively large Roma population experiences tension and discrimination from the native Bulgarian population, and live in deep poverty, with high rates of abuse, prostitution, and broken families, and low rates of education.

Pray for God to restore Bulgarians’ trust in Him, and to turn to Him as their source of innovation and economic opportunity. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move across the Roma population, shattering strongholds of broken families, generational cycles of addiction and abuse, teaching them how to overcome discrimination and racism with love and forgiveness. Pray for God to bring unity across the nation, and a revived spiritual hunger for a true relationship with Jesus Christ.

Croatia—Although still bearing the scars from its Communist past and the civil war that broke up the former Yugoslavia, Croatia has recovered economically. Even so, many Croatians emigrate for better opportunities elsewhere. More than 90 percent of Croats are Catholic. Croatia has received an influx of asylum seekers from the Syrian civil war, and other countries where people flee threats and persecution for their ethnicity or religious beliefs. These immigrants have difficulty navigating the asylum process, and many are deported back into what they fear are life and death situations. Please pray that Croatians would recognize their deep need for God and pursue Him with all their hearts. Ask God to help those struggling economically to find hope for their families in Christ. And pray that refugees will be successful in receiving in asylum and be able to begin new lives in safety and peace.

Slovenia—Since achieving independence from the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia has been relatively stable and more prosperous than many of its Central European neighbors. Although Catholicism is the dominant religion, 54 percent claim to be Christian. The evangelical church does not have a strong influence in the growing secular culture. Pray that God would break through apathy and materialism to capture the hearts of Slovenians, and draw them into a national movement of love for God.

Kosova—Following a 1990s civil war, people still bear emotional scars. They grieve those who died, and some remember being refugees. More than two decades later, Kosova remains economically devastated, its unemployment rate at 70 percent. The vast majority of Kosovars follow a religion other than Christianity. Evangelical Christians are very few, and sometimes are quiet about their faith to avoid conflict with family or discrimination and persecution within their communities. Please pray that God would bring healing to the nation of Kosova. Pray for forgiveness and reconciliation, and that a movement of the Holy Spirit would turn the nation to Jesus Christ for renewal and new hope for their future in Him.

SerbiaPrayercast.com says of Serbia, “Forty-five years of Communism, inclusion in Yugoslavia, and the devastating Balkan wars that followed have all left Serbia with a bitter legacy and a desperate economy. The recent global economic crisis and the effects of war have led to high unemployment rates. A past littered with what most of the world perceives as ethno-religious hatred and cleansing haunts Serbia even today. Primarily Orthodox, 80% of the population claim Christianity. Over half of these would see their faith as cultural and part of their ethnic identity, leading to rampant nominalism.” Pray that the Holy Spirit would begin to work healing in Serbia by softening the people’s hearts toward God, leading them to a true national repentance, and reconciling them to God and others. Pray that God would make Serbia a people passionate about God and full of love and a missional spirit to serve their neighbors.

Hungary—Hungarians enjoy a stable post-Communist economy and society, but secularism has driven a national apathy about spiritual matters. Barely more than half of Hungarians identity as Christians. In recent years, new laws have drastically restricted religious freedom, making it very difficult for small congregations or religious organizations to exist, or to register with the government. Pray for Hungarians to see the truth of the gospel in the midst of an increasingly postmodern culture. Pray for the government to ease restrictions that are making it difficult for believers to gather for worship, and restricting open witness to the gospel.

Let’s pray.

Prayer

Oh God, our loving Father,

Thank You for Your love for the people of Central Europe. Thank You that You are now and always at work among the peoples of Kosova, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Hungary, Serbia, and Poland. You are crying out to them Your mighty love and longing to heal and renew them, even though many do not hear or see You.

Most of these nations have a long history of Christianity, and yet people have become lukewarm. Some could be described as post-Christian, where young people especially have not even heard the gospel story or ever been to a worship service. Others have been disillusioned by the failures of the Church to authentically preach a growing relationship with You.

Apathy and ignorance are among the most difficult strongholds to shatter. You said to the lukewarm church of Sardis in Revelation 3: “Now wake up! Strengthen what little remains—for even what is left is at the point of death. Your deeds are far from right in the sight of God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly and turn to me again. Unless you do, I will come suddenly upon you, unexpected as a thief, and punish you.”

And to the lukewarm church of Laodicea, you said:

“I know you well—you are neither hot nor cold; I wish you were one or the other! But since you are merely lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth!

“You say, ‘I am rich, with everything I want; I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that spiritually you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.

“Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me. Let those who can hear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

Our father, we intercede with burning hearts for the peoples of these nations who only see faith as a ritual, a cultural tradition or an ethnic identity. For the millions who have never experienced the freedom and joy of repentance, and the beautiful transformation You offer to make them a new creation in Christ Jesus.

In Your faithful, prevenient grace, Jesus, wake them up! Open their eyes to see and their ears to hear. God of the angel armies, sweep across Central Europe in Your power and goodness to shatter the twin strongholds of poverty and wealth; conquer the principalities and powers of secularism, as well as the worship of other gods and idols. Break through the darkness of ignorance and our enemy’s efforts to deceive and distract with the brilliant light of Your Truth.

Where there are refugees and asylum seekers making a new life in these countries, please use this opportunity to introduce them to believers who know You personally. As they adapt to cultures where they can freely explore the Christian faith, open their hearts with curiosity and hunger to know more about You, and lead many to a saving relationship with Jesus.

As the nations of Central Europe are affected by the COVID-19 virus, and especially in Croatia, which was also struck with a powerful earthquake, please give wisdom and resources to treat the sick and to protect the vulnerable.

Father, we pray that You would grant each nation wise authorities and leaders who know You personally, and seek Your power and discernment to leave their people with integrity, compassion, and boldness.

In Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Kosova, where high rates of poverty and unemployment strangle the potential of people to fully be all that You created them to be, please meet people in their despair and the exhaustion of subsistence living. Help them to see that true hope, joy, and contentment will come from You, not from obtaining material prosperity. But also, please intervene to break cycles of generational poverty, human trafficking and prostitution, abuse, addictions, and failure to complete their education. As You rescue people from these strongholds, show them it was You they have to thank, and enable them, in their gratitude, to commit their new lives to following You, and sharing You with others.

Lord, we know that only You can achieve such great miracles, and yet doing so would take no effort from You. You have all the power, all the wisdom, and You love each person in each of these nations. Please, Holy Spirit, continue to call the people to You, and to defeat our enemy wherever he opposes You. We believe You can do all these things, and we pray this in the wonderful name of Jesus. Amen.

Conclusion

Jeremiah 11:18–20

Psalm 7:6–11

Please join me again tomorrow to intercede with me on behalf of God’s people across Central Europe.

(Source: prayercast.com)