For the church
For the church
Are you able to get to a church on a Sunday? Do you have Christian friends, or a house group, to pray with regularly? Is there someone in your life you can ask your questions about the Bible?
Hopefully the answer is “yes” to at least one of the above! It’s almost impossible to truly flourish in your faith without the support of other Christians – through meeting together regularly to pray, worship, study the Bible and encourage each other.
Our church relationships aren’t always easy, and we sometimes take them for granted. But in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where less than 4% of the population are Christian, many believers are completely alone in their faith. In some MENA countries, like Egypt or Lebanon, there is relative freedom for believers to go to church. But in others, like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or Iran, it is nearly impossible for believers to find a church to attend, and it can be difficult or even dangerous to find a Bible or someone to pray with.
Those who believe behind closed doors need alternative sources to receive biblical teaching and to experience fellowship with other believers. This is where SAT-7 comes in – by broadcasting God’s love directly into people’s living rooms and onto their mobile phones. Our TV programmes for isolated believers include Bible teaching, live worship and prayer. These encourage viewers that they are not alone – there are others who believe and worship like them, from their own countries and in their own languages.
And the support doesn’t stop there: people can contact SAT-7’s viewer support teams to ask questions and pray with another believer. SAT-7 brings isolated believers together for virtual fellowship through social media and online messaging apps, like Bible study groups on Skype or fellowship groups on messaging app Telegram.
Over this final week of Lent, spend time giving thanks to God for your connection with other believers. Remember your global family – your brothers and sisters in the Middle East – particularly those who have limited freedom to worship and meet together.∎
SAT 13 April
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Whether in the UK or the Middle East, we are all part of the same body of Christ. Pray for your brothers and sisters around the world and thank God that you are part of His global family.
Sun 14 April
“They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (John 12:13). Pray that many more people across the MENA would come to know Jesus as their Lord, and worship Him.
Mon 15 April
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on... not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24). Many MENA Christians, like Marjan (left), don’t have the option to meet together. Pray that they will be encouraged in other ways – like through SAT-7’s programmes.
Tue 16 April
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Pray that those under pressure for their faith will have the courage to display Christ’s love to those around them.
Wed 17 April
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). As Pastor Zekai points out, we all need God to cleanse our hearts so we can have healthy relationships with others. Ask His forgiveness for anything that is causing a “blockage” in your heart at the moment.
Thur 18 April
“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Thank God for His great love for us, revealed in Jesus on the cross. Pray that MENA Christians – even those who are isolated, rejected by their families or under pressure for their faith – would know that they can never be separated from His love.
The heavenly heart surgeon
Zekai Tanyar, a pastor in Turkey, explains why our spiritual hearts need regular check-ups.
A few weeks ago I had a quadruple bypass surgery, as an angiogram showed major blockages in four arteries. I was not expecting a full surgical intervention! I have never smoked, have no blood-pressure issues, I’m not overweight (well, maybe just a few kilograms), and I eat fairly healthily (as much as you can in a land of kebabs!).
Likewise, we often think we are healthy spiritually. We do much of the “church” and “Christian” things expected. Yet the arteries of faith, of grace, of relationships, narrow with the blockages of tiredness, disappointment, and broken relationships. The breath of faith, just like the breath of life, becomes a struggle, and the old heart needs to be revived.
While I like my current privacy as I recuperate from surgery, I once again realise we are created for relationships. The aim of life is not just to stay alive physically. It’s not just about me – it’s about all people, all creation. If, as in Matthew 25, Jesus identified himself with the needy, the sick, the imprisoned, He too is saying it’s about everyone.
Sadly, our spiritual arteries are primarily clogged by the most fatty subject: bad relationships. We are particularly bad on this in the Middle East, where the shame/honour culture avoids dealing with them: it’s so hard to say “sorry”, and even harder to say “I forgive”. So we accumulate the fat of pride, of fear, of shame. It’s a strange paradox, because relationships are so important in this part of the world.
As believers, we all need to discover what Godly, long-lasting relationships look like. We need to discover the ways of keeping our arteries of faith open through love, grace, humility and forgiveness. For that we need the body of Christ, the Church, with whom we learn live it out.
The new believer desperately needs to belong to the fellowship of God’s family too, especially as they may have lost most or all previous relationships. SAT-7 is part of that family, an arm of that family that can reach into the homes where the physical church cannot enter. It is a call to the lonely believer that they are part of a big family that cares, and wants to keep in touch and encourage.
Ultimately, we all need the touch of the heavenly heart surgeon to bypass our blockages, to once again get the heart of faith supplying our thinking, our emotions, our actions; to remove the numbness, the pain, the coldness. We need to once again put our hand in God’s hand, to walk humbly with Him. We need to rediscover the faithful heart of God that has always been there, that never gets blocked whatever we all throw at it. ∎