Here is Elizabeth's Christmas Prayer Bulletin.
Read about her new book here: http://www.turnbackthebattle.com/thebook.html
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 190 | Wed 19 Dec 2012
CHRISTMAS HERALDS HOPE FOR THE WORLD
by Elizabeth Kendal
We are 12 years into the 21st Century; 64 years on from the signing of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 23 years past the fall of Communism
in Europe and the end of the Cold War. Yet the world is not a safer place,
especially for Christians. For, while positives have progressed, so too
have negatives. And while proud, self-sufficient humanity likes to
congratulate itself on the positives, it is not very good at tackling the
negatives. For decades now, dangerous religious nationalism has been
building in post-colonial emerging democracies such as Sri Lanka, and
especially India. It is 33 years since the successful Shi'ite Revolution
in Iran and the failed Sunni Revolution in Saudi Arabia triggered the
Saudi-funded global expansion of Sunni Islamic fundamentalism, which is
pro-Sharia, pro-jihad, supremacist, imperialist and intolerant.
Yet these past decades have been decades of phenomenal Church growth,
specifically throughout the non-Western world. In 1960 the Church was
predominantly white, Western and middle-class. Today the Church is some 80
percent coloured, non-Western and poor. These Christians - who include
many converts - live as counter-cultural, vulnerable religious minorities
in increasingly hostile environments in states with poor human rights
records. Yet their numbers still increase as the Church continues to grow
despite everything the devil throws at it. And that brings us to the key
issue: the escalating persecution we are witnessing is Satan's response to
Church growth. 'For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this
present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly
places.' (Ephesians 6:12 ESV.) Satan is fighting back as should be
expected. So how should we respond to this? We are to respond with
endurance (Hebrews 10:35-39), prevailing prayer (Ephesians 6:18) and
steadfast faith (Isaiah 30:15) in the one who secured our victory by means
of the cross.
This year multitudes of Christians will be celebrating Christmas behind
barricades and with armed guards to prevent terror attacks and mob
violence. Those of us who are accustomed to worshipping in freedom can
hardly imagine such a scenario. This year the Indonesian government will
heighten security 'in seven areas believed to be prime targets for
terrorist attacks ahead of the Christmas and New Year celebrations'. The
areas which will receive special attention are East Java, Central Java,
Jakarta, North Sumatra, Central Sulawesi, Bali and Maluku. From 23
December 2012 to 1 January 2013 'police will heighten security at the
38,499 registered churches across Indonesia'. (Jakarta Globe). Instead of
celebrating Christmas outdoors as they like to do, most Christians across
northern Nigeria will remain inside their churches, behind the barricades
and armed guards. The general secretary of the Christian Association of
Nigeria, Rev. Musa Asake, expressed anxiety about the prospect of
Christmas bombings and appealed through CBS News for Christians to pray
that 'the Lord will intervene to protect churches'.
One of Iraq's leading Shi'ite clerics, Ayatollah Ahmad Al Hassani Al
Baghdadi is currently in Syria, supporting the jihad against Assad. He has
just issued a fatwa labelling Iraqi Christians as 'polytheists' [because
they worship a trinity] and 'friends of the Zionists'. He has decreed they
must choose 'Islam or death' and that 'their women and girls may
legitimately be regarded wives of Muslims'. This fatwa may well increase
the likelihood of a terror attack against Iraqi Christians this Christmas.
Also it is difficult to imagine that foreign jihadis in Syria will let
Christians gather and celebrate Christmas in peace and with security when
their intention is to eradicate Christianity from the whole Middle East.
In totalitarian states such as Eritrea, Algeria and all through Asia,
Christians worshipping in unregistered ('illegal') house fellowships will
worship, as usual, at risk of arrest. Christians in Pakistan, Egypt,
Sudan, Maldives and India will also worship at great risk, while
Christians in Somalia, Afghanistan and North Korea will worship in total
secret and near silence.
But worship and celebrate we all will, for we celebrate the coming of the
one who changes everything: Jesus Christ, son of David, Son of God. He
came to redeem his people and establish his Church. What started with a
band of disciples - most of whom were martyred - he has built into a
Church that is hundreds-of-millions-strong. What is more, he is building
still and Satan, though he fight with 'the energy of despair', cannot stop
him. Though this relentless battle leaves us weary, Christ is resilient.
Though we bruise like fragile reeds and fade like spent lanterns, the
promise is that Jesus Christ, the Lord of Hosts, will not grow faint or be
discouraged till he has established justice in the earth (from Isaiah
42:3,4). The one whose coming we celebrate at Christmas is the one who in
grace gives strength to those who will trust him, that the battle might be
turned back. He is the one in whom we hope. Yes, Christmas is worth
celebrating, for Christmas heralds hope for the world.
A CHRISTMAS PRAYER FOR IMPERILLED CHRISTIANS
As we lift our hearts and hands to the God of all Creation, we confess
that our hearts are heavy with anxiety for our persecuted fellow
believers; we confess that our hands are empty for there is nothing
material that we could offer that could stop the violence. But come we do,
because we know that while we are limited, you our God are not; for you
are the Almighty living God (Psalm 77:10-13) and nothing is impossible for
you (Luke 1:37). Indeed you are willing and able to do abundantly more
than we could ask or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20). We come because we
know that you love us with an everlasting love; that you speak, work and
rule in our interests; and that you are 'for us' (Psalm 56:9) and one with
us (Romans 6:5), having been given to us (the Church) as our head
(Ephesians 2:22). And so we cry to you: May the Lord of hosts himself
guard his churches and secret fellowships this Christmas. May the Holy
Spirit draw all imperilled believers into prayer, trusting that you will
answer as soon as you hear it (Isaiah 30:19). And may the name of Jesus
Christ be exalted throughout all the nations with songs of praise, of
glory to the Righteous One (Isaiah 24:16). AMEN
RLPB 191 will be issued on 02 Jan 2013
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Previous RLPBs may be viewed at <http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com/>.
For more information, updates and helpful links see Elizabeth Kendal's
blog 'Religious Liberty Monitoring' <http://elizabethkendal.blogspot.com>.
This RLPB was written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious
Liberty Commission (AEA RLC) by Elizabeth Kendal, an international
religious liberty analyst and advocate, and a member of the AEA RLC team.
Elizabeth is Adjunct Research Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Islam
and Other Faiths at the Melbourne School of Theology.
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