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Christmas 2007: What does it mean for Religious Liberty?

December 19, 2007

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 459 | Wed 19 Dec 2007

Religious liberty and religious security deteriorated in much of
the world during 2007. Persecution -- even annihilation -- is
targeting not just individuals, but whole peoples. Who will endure?
Throughout the world openness and liberty are in conflict with
repression and dictatorship. Which will prevail?

Indonesia\'s aggressive Javanese Muslim colonisation of West Papua
threatens to culminate in the genocide of West Papua\'s indigenous
predominantly Protestant Christian Melanesians. (If demographic
trends continue it is forecast that the Papuans will be an ethnic
and religious minority by 2011.) What does the future hold for
Christians in volatile Northern Iraq? (South and central Iraq have
already been ethnically and religiously cleansed.) What will happen
to the hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees scattered
throughout the inhospitable Middle East? Sectarian war looms over
Lebanon. Islamic intolerance continues to grow in Egypt and
Northern Nigeria. What does the future hold for the Serbian
Orthodox in volatile, inhospitable Kosovo? Will al-Qaeda and
Taliban jihad and repression advance across Afghanistan and
Pakistan? For how much longer can the predominantly Christian Hmong
run through the Laotian jungle, losing loved ones to hunger,
infection and terror? Hindu militancy continues to escalate in
India and Buddhist nationalism fuels intolerance in Sri Lanka. Will
repression intensify in China, Vietnam, Belarus, Russia?

Jesus promised: \'In this world you will have trouble. But take
heart! I have overcome the world.\' (John 16:33 NIV) The troubles we
have in this world are not some mechanical fault that needs fixing.
They are the consequence of sin that has despoiled all creation and
separated us from God. Reconciliation with God is only possible
through the removal of sin, something the sinner cannot achieve due
to his despoiled nature. Only One who is holy and incorruptible can
deal rightly with sin. To remove sin justly is costly, for the
wages of sin is death. But out of sheer love, God himself provided
the Lamb. Our Redeemer paid the price and he was the price. The
eternal Word became flesh (John 1:1-14) for the purpose of a
perfect, acceptable, holy sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-10).

Through his incarnation, obedience and substitutionary death,
Christ redeemed his people, washing away their sin and reconciling
them to God. As cleansed vessels they could then become the
dwelling place of the Holy Spirit who regenerates them unto
salvation and empowers them not only for personal holiness but for
the blessing of the world. Christ \'redeemed us so that the blessing
given to Abraham (see Genesis 12:1-3) might come to the Gentiles
through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise
of the Spirit.\' (Galatians 3:14 NIV) Now God \'is able to do
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his
power that is at work within us . . .\' (Ephesians 3:20,21 NIV)

Christians tend to feel powerless in the face of wars and genocide
and massive tragedies, threats and disasters. But this is just
another lie from Satan, for powerless we are not! Because of the
incarnation and redemptive work of Christ, God\'s Spirit is now
within us, making the Church the most powerful body and instrument
on the face of the earth. Oh, if we would only embrace this truth!
God has ordained that his Spirit-led intercessors be instrumental
in the course of history, and that his Spirit-empowered Church be
instrumental in the restoration and blessing of the world.

The miracle of the incarnation -- the greatest miracle creation has
ever witnessed -- should fill us with joy and expectation. Yes,
there is much trouble in this world, but take heart, believer, and
don\'t be deceived or discouraged, for Christ has overcome the
world. The restoration the Father has promised, Christ has
purchased and now the Spirit is bringing to pass in and through the
Church. No wonder the angels rejoiced! The incarnation heralded the
dawning of a whole new era. So pray, believer! Pray in expectation
(Psalm 5:1-3).

THIS CHRISTMAS WE PRAY ESPECIALLY -

* thanking God our Father for his unfathomable love as
demonstrated in the gift of his Son and praising and honouring
Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Lamb of God, for redeeming us and
for sending the Spirit to seal us for God and to work in and
through us for the glory of God and the blessing of the world.

* for the Spirit of God to revive the Church so that we will
overflow with energetic brotherly love and spiritual unity; so
that we will have an enlivened commitment to holiness and
obedience; so that we will be the blessing to this world that we
are meant to be.

* for God by his Spirit to bless our efforts to uphold and support
the persecuted, and extend the blessing of religious liberty to
all the peoples of the world.

\'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and
wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!\' (Revelation
5:12 NIV)

* for all our brethren who are this day suffering for their faith
in Jesus Christ, that they may know the love, peace and provision
of God.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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WHAT DOES CHRISTMAS MEAN IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION?

The Word became flesh (John 1:1-4) so that he could live a perfect
life on our behalf and then die for sin on our behalf. Because of
the incarnation and the cross of Christ, the Spirit may now live
within us and work through us. What the Father has promised, Christ
has purchased and now the Spirit is bringing to pass. When we are
faced with persecution and war and tragedy, we must remember that
Christ said, \'Take heart! I have overcome the world.\' (John 16:33)
When we pray for the persecuted Church and for the blessing of
religious liberty to be extended to all the peoples of the world,
we can be confident that the Spirit is at work. The incarnation
heralded the dawn of this whole new era of the Church and of the
Spirit. Worthy is the Lamb! (Rev 5:12)

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We in WEA RLC are humbly grateful for the ministry through 2007 of
all the faithful intercessors receiving these weekly RLPs. Please
accept the message contained in this bulletin as our Christmas
greeting. (The next RLP will be posted in the new year.)

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.