Taking up prayer Iran for Lent

I was slightly thrown when my 8 year old asked me yesterday what I was giving up for Lent. I hadn’t realised it had hit his consciousness, but there we are! For me it’s no more chocolate. But more significantly in the spiritual realm is what I intend to take up for lent. I am going to be praying for the church in Iran. Over that last couple of years I have discovered more about this beautiful country and it’s growing church. A church desperately in need of our prayers and our material support. Elam is a wonderful ministry supporting the Iranian church – led by Iranian Christians and their prayer diary is going to be the basis of my intercessions for the next 40 days.

I commend them and the church in Iran to you.

Bono answers – Who is Jesus?

The tree has gone and the lights put away for another year, Christmas recedes into memory as work starts up again. It is tempting to put away the questions that that the nativity story asks of us, and we ask of it. Chief of these is ‘who is Jesus?’ the child in the manger.

A short video here of U2’s Bono’s answer:

Starting Next week at St Giles we are hosting an Alpha course, a chance to look into these questions more deeply in a group format. We have a real mix of people coming, if you have thought about doing something similar why don’t you join us?

Details here

New Year, New Start,

Best wishes

Lee

A prayer for the evening

It’s been a while…

A prayer for the evening from Common Worship’s service for Evening Prayer for Advent:

Blessed are you, Sovereign God

creator of light and darkness,

to you be glory and praise for ever.

As evening falls, you renew your promise

to reveal among us the light of your presence.

May your word be a lantern to our feet

and a light upon our path

that we may behold your coming among us.

Strengthen us in our stumbling weakness

and free our tongues to sing your praise.

Amen.

Heartbreaking news from Iraq

As the horrors of the situation in Gaza and the fate of flight MH17 dominate the news agenda so the fate of Christians in Iraq and Syria begins to slide off the agenda. But under the rule of ISIS in Mosul the few remaining Christians suffer appalling treatment. Stripped of everything they are forced to flee their homes on foot as Mosques loud speakers threaten their death if they remain. One of the organisations I support – Release International tells their story:

According to reports, IS militants stopped some fleeing families at checkpoints and confiscated their belongings, including money, jewellery and mobile phones.

The Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar M Warda, told Release: ‘Christians have lost their trust in the land and in the future. Since 2003 [the allied invasion of Iraq], two-thirds of the Christians have left the country. June was the first month in 1600 years in which Mosul did not celebrate any mass. The attack on Christians has been immense. In the future I imagine Iraq becoming a country where you have many Christian sites, just for tourism – due to the families that are leaving.’

Other church leaders painted an equally gloomy picture.
Gradually, a picture of life under the IS militants who have seized much of Iraq is emerging. Ahead of their invasion, they distributed videos of public beheadings, mass executions and public crucifixions of enemies they had executed.

Such was the firestorm of fear that this Sunni terror group whipped up, that the largely Shia Iraq army deserted in droves, leaving their weapons and the territory to the militants. IS has now declared a Caliphate in Iraq and Syria and has become an umbrella group for various armed factions willing to pledge allegiance to the self-proclaimed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

‘The terror is palpable,’ says Release Chief Executive Paul Robinson, ‘and that fear is driving Christians from their homes. If IS behave true to their form in Syria, then the Christians who remain in Iraq under their control can expect to live a life of subjugation under their brutally-enforced variation of Islamic law, and to have to pay for the privilege.’

The coming of Islamic State is just the latest tightening of the screw on Christians. Persecution has been relentless since the downfall of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Christians have been killed, car-bombed and gunned down in their churches.

News from Cebu after Typhoon Haiyan

Regular readers of this blog will know that before I was Rector of St Giles I was a CMS Missionary in Cebu in the Philippines, not too far from where Typhoon Haiyan made ground fall recently. Most of my work was in rural coastal villages, which are affected every year by storms and Typhoons. The Pastor Glemar who continues the work we began wrote in his prayer letter in September this year:

Pray also for the living condition of the people in the community. They need other means for sustainable income. Most of them are fishermen. Sometimes have good catch, and sometimes only enough for the day. They are mostly affected by the condition of the weather in our country. If there is typhoon, their source of living might be suspended for they cannot go out for fishing. So please pray for them.

I haven’t heard directly from those who we knew in Cebu, but looking through the news reports it seems that our areas escaped the worst of the storm damage, and were ‘relatively’ unscathed. I have also picked up a couple of emails from missionary friends who are still in the Philippines and who have contats in Northern Cebu and Tacloban, the areas which have suffered such devastation. One of these writes:

The most intense part of the storm went across the islands where we have many of our churches. The church buildings and the surrounding towns and cities were hard hit.

Already many of our churches from the less affected areas are responding with aid. Convoys of food and water are even now working their way along the roads made dangerous by downed trees and power lines, and threats of looters toward the devastated cities. The people of our churches will bring both physical aid the good news of the gospel. They are not waiting for groups from the outside, but are acting now.

I want to encourage you to contribute generously to the relief fund set up by Converge Worldwide. These funds are overseen by our church leaders in the Philippines who we know and trust. These funds will supply aid to where it is desperately needed. This aid, brought by our churches, will provide a wonderful testimony of the love of God, and create an ongoing opportunity for the advance of the gospel.

As a church we are supporting the Typhhon Haiyan Relief effort through our Mission Partner Christian Aid who has partner agencies working in the affected areas. You can find our more about there work and support them financially here – Christian Aid Typhoon Haiyan Appeal.

Inspiring testimony of a Bhutanese pastor

I find this short video from the US inspiring. It tells the story of a pastor from Bhutan planting a new church among Bhutanese refugees in America. Bhutan is one of the least evangelised countries in the world and Christians are denied religious freedoms we in the West take for granted; church buildings are forbidden and Bhutanese who become Christian face the loss of their citizenship and other benefits such as free education and health care.

They need our support and prayer.