3 - Prayer focus turns to North Korea in light of rocket launch, leadership change
The eyes of the world were focused this week on the planned launch of a rocket from a site in North Korea, the purpose of which their government said was to put a satellite in space, but that much of the geopolitical community felt was to prepare to deploy a nuclear warhead - the attempted launch was reportedly a failure. This event and others give Christians the unique opportunity to call attention to the isolated nation so that we can pray for it and its people. Open Doors USA, which has North Korea on top of its "World Watch List", on Sunday encouraged a different sort of launch, the deployment of prayers before the throne of God on behalf of North Korea.
As the country is celebrating its "Day of the Sun", and as a new leadership structure is being put in place, believers are being called to pray. We read on the Open Doors website that:
Christians in North Korea are bracing themselves for the April events as they wake up every day in a country that is full of the idolization of its leaders. Even worse is the increased terror level of the government. One church leader described this in his letter, “All executives, citizens and even students are forced to attend meetings. Between December 30th and January 8th there have been thorough investigations to find anyone who has not participated sincerely or has not participated at all in the national mourning of the death of the leader. Therefore all criticism meetings and self-reflection classes are being closely watched and secret agents are seen everywhere. All these movements are to prevent any sort of individual dangerous elements who may not devote themselves to the ‘military first’ policy and protest against its current system. It seems like it is part of an extreme reign of terror just to create a terror atmosphere. It is very difficult to speak our minds, even to our friends and family. There is a good chance we will be arrested if we speak freely.According to an interview with Dr. Carl Moeller, President & CEO of Open Doors in The Christian Post, "For Christians inside North Korea their fear has increased as the government has mandated all the people to bow down to the gods of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un and participate in the celebration...scrutiny of the estimated 200,000 to 400,000 brave underground Christians has increased during the last few months. Some have been thrown into prisons. There are 50,000 to 70,000 Christians of the estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people living under horrific conditions in those prisons. Also, many North Koreans are chronically malnourished and unemployed."
For more information, you can go to www.opendoorsusa.org. The nation of North Korea represents not only a challenge to those it perceives to be its enemies, but its government is an enormous threat to the thousands of Christians within its borders who wish to worship God in an atmosphere of religious freedom.
2 - Christian leaders gather in Louisville for biennial "Together for the Gospel" conference
In 2006, four long-time friends -Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C. J. Mahaney, and Albert Mohler - joined together to create a conference called Together for the Gospel, in order to encourage other pastors to stand together for the same gospel, the gospel of Christ. The conferences were repeated in 2008, 2010, and in 2012, with another scheduled for 2014.
This year, some 7500 to 8000 came together in Louisville to hear the 4 friends as keynote speakers, in addition to Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, David Platt, and John Piper. The messages were centered around a theme of the "The Underestimated Gospel". There were also a number of breakout sessions that were offered, as well as worship through music.
Prior to the conference, it was announced that Chandler, Pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas, would be assuming the leadership of the church planting network known as Acts 29, replacing Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll, who also stepped down from his board position at The Gospel Coalition, which is a network of pastors and speakers who are devoted to a strong adherence to the gospel and the proclamation of Biblical truth. You'll actually find that many of the keynote speakers of Together for the Gospel are also associated with the Coalition.
During the Together for the Gospel conference, the announcement was made that the entire library of preaching by noted theologian Martyn Lloyd-Jones would be made available for free download through the website of Lloyd-Jones' trust, which is found at www.mlj.org.uk. There are some 1600 recordings that are available.
1 - Santorum's withdrawal forces many Christian voters to evaluate Romney
It was an improbable candidacy to say the least - a two-term U.S. Senator, who was defeated in his re-election bid by double-digits, experiencing single-digit numbers in polling data leading up to just before the Iowa caucuses, then out of nowhere winning Iowa, then scoring wins across the Midwest before taking his campaign to the South and pulling out wins in Alabama and Mississippi. However, Rick Santorum was greatly outspent by the presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, and lost some big states like Michigan and Ohio and was actually trailing in the polls in his home state of Pennsylvania.
A health scare involving his 3-year old daughter brought the Santorum family to their home and before the throne of God to evaluate their campaign. And, after admittedly a great deal of prayer, Rick Santorum suspended his quest for the Republican Presidential nomination.
One group that had supported Santorum and brought energy to his campaign was evangelical Christians. Even though he is a Catholic, his devotion to oppose abortion and gay marriage, and pronouncements that he made, such as quotes about the source of rights - from God, not government - brought him a great deal of support from that group. There were also a number of evangelical leaders who had galvanized behind Santorum, as well. Looking ahead, we do know that Mitt Romney already has a measure of support from evangelicals, and combined with likely a good deal of Santorum's evangelical support going to Romney as the nominee, he should have a sizable amount of that voting base.
Now, Newt Gingrich still enjoys some pockets of support from evangelical Christian voters, but his polling numbers and financial numbers suggest that he is incapable of mounting a significant challenge to the former Massachusetts governor.
But will there be enthusiasm for evangelicals as a whole to support Romney? There has been quite a bit of debate regarding Romney's Mormonism, as well as his positions on abortion and gay marriage, which seem to have shifted. And, people will have to weigh and pray about those issues.
One thing that has been very beneficial to Romney all along is that he has been perceived as the candidate who is best position to defeat Barack Obama, and evangelicals who do not want to face a second Obama term, it is thought, will turn out for Romney (although a new Barna poll does show that Obama may do better with evangelicals this time around).
So, it appears the general election campaign season has begun, and it's important that Christians are in prayer regarding the upcoming choice in November - not only for the man to inhabit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but those who will serve down the street in Congress.