It has long been my practice to break only between Christmas and New Year. This year, however, I will be taking a much-needed extended break to refresh and to devote myself to finishing a second book. The next Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin will be a January Update on 28 January 2015. Anybody requiring prayer requests for church bulletins or intercessions should refer to the Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) site. If there is a need to inform intercessors of a critical situation requiring urgent prayer, an alert will be issued.
Of course, as intercessors we should cultivate the habit of reading or watching the news with our 'religious liberty' and 'persecuted church' radar switched on, always considering what the implications of the news might be for the Gospel and for the Church and praying accordingly. For example: though unsensational and therefore under-reported, the following news grabbed my attention and inspired prayer.
|source: ABC (12 Dec)|
May all intercessors have a blessed, joyous and hope-inspiring Christmas.
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TOWARDS 2015: JESUS CHRIST, ETERNAL KING
A devotional by Elizabeth Kendal
In 735 BC, as Judah's neighbours conspired against her, God asked Judah's King Ahaz to be 'firm in faith' (Isaiah 7:1-9) and trust God to be faithful to his promise [the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7:8-17]. He even offered to give Ahaz a sign to help him have faith to believe. Unfortunately Ahaz rejected the Lord's offer; he did not want to walk by faith for he had other plans. Disgusted, the prophet Isaiah then revealed that the Lord himself would give a sign: 'Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.' (Isaiah 7:14) Subsequently, Isaiah forewarned his disciples that Ahaz's faithless choice would lead to disaster: the Assyrian invasion (prophesied in Isaiah 8, fulfilled in 701 BC). 'But,' he added, 'there will be no gloom ... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end ...' (Excerpts from Isaiah 9:1-7 ESV)
Whilst Ahaz's son, Hezekiah, was an interim fulfilment of this prophecy, he merely prefigured Jesus Christ, for the ultimate fulfilment is Immanuel (which means, 'God with us'). A godly king who revived Judah's worship of Yahweh, Hezekiah temporarily succumbed to pride before returning to the Lord at the critical moment. As prophesied, the Assyrian army overflowed its banks and flooded the land of Judah, sweeping away all those earthly instruments in which the Lord's people had vainly put their hopes. With the fall of Jerusalem imminent and inevitable, the godly King Hezekiah humbled himself and stood firm in faith. Donning the sackcloth of mourning, he entered the Lord's temple and prayed. His prayer achieved what his works could not as God intervened and the battle was turned back at the gate (Isaiah 36-37). The remnant was spared by grace through faith.
Jesus Christ, the king born of David's line, is the ultimate fulfilment. Like Hezekiah, Jesus has interposed himself between a just and righteous God and a people in need of salvation. Unlike Hezekiah, Jesus is perfect and eternal. Whilst the spiritual battle has already been turned back -- for Christ's victory on the cross has ensured the outcome -- local battles will continue 'until he has put all his enemies under his feet' (from 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). Though the 'mopping up' is messy, painful and difficult; despite episodes of chaos, darkness and seeming hopelessness; the promise remains: 'Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end ... .' (Isaiah 9:7) So we will resist despair and refuse to give up. We will press on in faith with witness and intercession believing that 'the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea' (Isaiah 11:9). As the angel told Mary, 'Nothing will be impossible for God.' (Luke 1:37) May we believe, as Mary believed, that God will fulfil his word (Luke 1:45).
Lord God our Father and Eternal King,
we commit ourselves to another year in your service,
to intercede in confident faith for your precious, persecuted Church.
[For complete study on a Biblical response to persecution and threat, based on Isaiah 1-39, see: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today, by Elizabeth Kendal (Deror Books, Dec 2012)
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS
NORTH KOREA: NOT HOPELESS
On Saturday 13 December North Korea's deaf football team played a 'friendly' match against Australia's deaf football team in Sydney's Olympic Park. Furthermore '[The Korean] Church group World Milal Australia organised the event with the help of Deaf Football Australia, with parishioners hosting the players in their Sydney homes.' This contact was undoubtedly a miracle in answer to the prayers of many. May we persevere in prayer for many seemingly hopeless causes because we believe they are not hopeless, for Jesus Christ is the Eternal King and 'Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end ... .' (Isaiah 9:7) Lord, we commit ourselves to another year in your service, to intercede in confident faith for your precious, persecuted Church. Amen.
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).