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Middle East Christians - Brilliant Stars Rising in the East

January 4, 2006

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 359 - Wed 04 Jan 2006

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MIDDLE EAST CHRISTIANS - BRILLIANT STARS RISING IN THE EAST
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(By Neal Youngquist)

\'After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of
King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,
"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his
star in the east and have come to worship him." \' (Matthew 2:1,2)

Though Jesus came as a witness to first the Jews, it was wise men
(or astrologers) from the east who risked their lives and fortune
to pay honour to the \'King of the Jews\'. One would expect priests
or rabbis or members of the Sanhedrin to take special note of his
coming. But it was uncircumcised Gentiles who discerned the
appearing of a single star in the great expanse of the heavens to
herald the birth of the Messiah.

These wise men were forerunners of today\'s believers in the Middle
East. Arabs, Persians and other ethnic groups daily exercise their
faith in Christ with often great consequence of personal cost.
Their minority status throughout the region places them under
various forms of intimidation from threat to peril and even loss of
life.

Much maligned by their \'brothers\' for their belief in Christ, many
are treated as heathens, second-class citizens, and outcasts from
their families and culture. A life of secret faith, worship in
the underground church and isolation becomes the norm for
Christians in difficult lands such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

One\'s Christian faith even becomes a primary issue in the midst of
war. Within conflict-ridden Iraq, faith in Christ can often be
mistaken as tacit support for Western ideals. Such a dangerous
assumption leads to potentially devastating consequences, placing
Christians squarely in the sights of suicide bombers and
assassins. For many, the only alternative is to flee for safer
haven in neighbouring countries.

Despite these hardships, Christ the Bright Morning Star is rising
in the hearts of those who seek true peace and \'water of life\'
(Revelation 22:16,17). Recently, after a clear presentation of the
gospel, Christ was revealed as the Son of God to over 50
followers of Islam. Similar reports are appearing on a more
frequent basis throughout the region.

Just as the star of Bethlehem was miraculously discovered by wise
men of ages past, so Christ today is revealed to \'truth seekers\'
through dreams, visions and Divine intervention. In the midst
of uncertainty, despair and peril, may believers, old and new
alike, brightly \'shine like stars in the universe\' (Philippians 2:
15) to the praise and glory of God.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* Divine protection for believers living in societies with hostile
attitudes and actions against the Christian faith, and
especially for wisdom and courage for church leaders serving in
oppressive environments. (Mark 13:11; Proverbs 1:33)

* efforts to disciple new believers, that they will be firmly
rooted and strengthened in the faith and able to discern and
withstand the deceit and schemes of the evil one. (Colossians
2:6-8)

* the witness of expatriate Christians (mostly Filipinos and
Indian nationals) serving the region in various professions; may
these \'tentmakers\' know when they can witness in word and deed
to their employers and local co-workers. (Colossians 3:22-25)

* the impact of Christian media in print, radio and television, and
that creative and sensitive media development will promote an
understanding of Christianity and the gospel message. (2
Corinthians 5:18-20)

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
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MIDDLE EAST CHRISTIANS - BRILLIANT STARS RISING IN THE EAST

Soon after Christ was born, Magi from the east started following a
star that led them to the infant Messiah. The peril to their lives
and fortunes was secondary to finding and honouring the King of the
Jews. So too today, Middle East Christians often exercise their
faith at great risk. Daily, believers bravely shine like stars
(Phil 2:15) despite being maligned, harassed, intimidated,
threatened with - and suffering - great loss. Family members may be
killed. Some Christians are forced to flee to safer havens. Despite
such challenges, Christ the Bright Morning Star is rising in the
hearts of those seeking the truth. Pray for continued effective
presentation of the Christian faith through media and foreign
workers. Seek the Lord\'s protection over those living in
environments hostile to Christians. Please pray especially that
new believers will grow strongly in the faith.

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Neal Youngquist is a guest writer for RLP. Elizabeth Kendal, our
regular researcher and writer, is on leave.

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