Monday, December 7, 2015

RLPB 339. What Might the Persecuted Hope For This Christmas?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 339 | Tue 08 Dec 2015


WHAT MIGHT THE PERSECUTED HOPE FOR THIS CHRISTMAS?
-- a call to love, solidarity and action. 
By Elizabeth Kendal

This Christmas, Christians in Nigeria will doubtless be hoping for an end to Islamic jihad and terror. Thousands of Christian families will be tearfully hoping for the return of their captive children and with more than a million displaced, a multitude will be hoping for a return to homes, churches and communities. Across Syria and Iraq, hundreds of thousands of remnant Christians displaced by Islamic jihad will be hoping for the same. Mince tarts dusted with icing sugar will be far from their hearts and minds.

In Iran, Pakistan, China and Laos (amongst others) Christian families and local churches will be hoping for the release of loved ones imprisoned for their faith, while praying for their humane treatment. Meanwhile, prisoners like Behnam Irani (pastor, married father of two, imprisoned in Iran), Asia Bibi (Christian wife and mother of five, on death row for alleged blasphemy in Pakistan) and Zhang Kai (Christian attorney in defence of the cross, 'disappeared' into a 'black jail' for interrogation in China) will cling to life in the hope that they might be reunited with their families and friends yet again.

In India, Christians will be hoping for a reversal in the trend of Hindu nationalism. In Burma and Papua, the Christian ethnic peoples will be hoping for an end to military violence. Christians in North Korea and Eritrea will be quietly hoping against hope for something really big -- a brand new government that respects the lives and human rights of its citizens. But with corruption and wickedness penetrating through to the core across so many institutions and at so many levels, such a thing is seemingly impossible. Our hope comes from the words the angel gave Mary: 'For nothing will be impossible for God.' (Luke 1:37 ESV).

In Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, in Bangladesh and the South Asian subcontinent, in Egypt and all North Africa, in Indonesia and all South East Asia, in Uzbekistan and all Central Asia, in Sudan, Somalia and along the Swahili Coast -- wherever Muslims dominate -- Christians will be hoping for a special visitation of God's Holy Spirit to open Muslim eyes, awaken Muslim minds, soften Muslim hearts and break through the bulwark of Muslim fear.

For the first time in my lifetime Christians in the largely post-Christian West may well be hoping their worship services and festivities will not be targeted by terrorists. Whether the Church hopes for it or not, the thing the Western Church most desperately needs is revival, loving the Lord her God with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, ready and able to give a reason for her hope, to love as Christ loves (with grace and sacrifice), to have courage to stand firm and walk by faith as a counter-cultural force for good in a culture that is de-civilising at a rapid rate.

More than 2000 years have passed since the birth of Jesus. So why is the world in such a mess? Did Jesus fail? No, the resurrection proved Jesus' victory. The transformation of the world has begun and what started as a little movement in Jerusalem and Antioch has spread across the whole world. The times in which we live are days of phenomenal church growth, principally in the non-Western world and due primarily to the emergence of indigenous missions. Because of this the Church's centre of gravity is shifting from the northern hemisphere to the southern, from the West to the East. But this is not the end. Rather, God is doing something new: refining and sanctifying the West through judgement while raising up the East to declare his glory. What we are witnessing is an immense spiritual battle as Satan fights desperately to resist his inevitable demise. The days might be dark, but they are still days for hope, faith and endurance. What is more, they are days for Christian love, solidarity and action. For in these dark days before the dawn, persecuted Christians need all the help they can get.

To that end, please forward these RLPBs to others (but not as spam!) and encourage them to join the mailing list. Consider it a gift to the persecuted church.

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PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* grant all suffering, anxious and grief-stricken persecuted Christians a powerful, palpable and undeniable affirmation of his presence this Christmas, so they might be comforted by the assurance that the Christ is with them and their loved ones.

'For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 8:38-39 ESV).

* grant revival to the Western Church, even if it be by means of the judgment coming upon the largely post-Christian West; awaken our minds to the plight of the lost (which is tragic, not just in death but in life); and soften our hearts towards the suffering of his people that we might be 'one' (John 17:20-26).

* refine and sanctify all his people, that we might endure our trials with dignity, grace and faith, and with boundless Christian love and courageous solidarity, 'that all the kingdoms of earth might know that you alone are the Lord' (from the prayer of Hezekiah, Isaiah 37:14-20).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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WHAT MIGHT THE PERSECUTED HOPE FOR THIS CHRISTMAS? 

This Christmas, millions of Christians across the world will be hoping for an end to the communal pogroms and Islamic jihads that have robbed them of their homes, livelihoods and children. Many will be hoping that loved ones imprisoned for their faith will be treated humanely and soon released. Whether the Church hopes for it or not, the Western Church desperately needs revival. The world is in a mess, not because Jesus failed (the resurrection proved his victory), but because a spiritual battle is raging as Satan resists his demise. These are days for hope, faith and endurance, for Christian love, solidarity and generous, sacrificial action, and for serious intercessory prayer. In these dark days before the dawn, persecuted Christians need all the help they can get.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).
http://www.turnbackthebattle.com/thebook.html

Her second book, ‘After Saturday Comes Sunday’: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, will be published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) in early 2016.