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Christmas 2005: Amazing Grace, but Suffering and Terrorism

December 21, 2005

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 358 - Wed 21 Dec 2005

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CHRISTMAS 2005: AMAZING GRACE, BUT SUFFERING AND TERRORISM
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AMAZING GRACE, AND BOLDNESS IN PRAYER

\'This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and
only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is
love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his
Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.\' 1 John 4:9,10 NIV

Surely the most precious of all images in scripture is that of
Jesus \'the Lamb of God\' (John 1:29). What is so amazing, even
beyond comprehension, is that God\'s provision of Jesus as
sacrificial lamb was not motivated by pity or any sense of
obligation. God\'s provision was motivated by love. Humanity\'s
fall put God\'s love and justice in conflict. God\'s love cried out
to his rebellious people, \'I cannot give you up!\' while his
justice cried out \'the wages of sin is death!\'. God sent Jesus
into the world to suffer the Cross so both love and justice could
be satisfied. What\'s more, this \'love that surpasses knowledge\'
is not a love we deserved, but a love born of grace. (Ephesians 2:
4,5)

An understanding of amazing grace gives us confidence to pray for
all believers. God loves his \'chosen ones\' SO much that he will
not put off granting them justice when they cry out to him (Luke
18:1-8). His love for his Church is consuming; it is a wide, long,
high and deep love that \'surpasses knowledge\' (Ephesians 3:18,19).

An understanding of amazing grace gives us confidence to pray for
the lost, even those who persecute Christ\'s Church. They do not
deserve God\'s love, God\'s redemption, God\'s sacrificial lamb,
God\'s salvation - but neither did we.

Amazing grace leaves no place for pride and no place for
hopelessness. Amazing grace opens the door to prayer without
limits and hope beyond reason. This Christmas, as we reflect on
the amazing \'love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord\'
(Romans 8:39), let\'s commit afresh to rejecting shallowness,
timidity and faint-heartedness in prayer. Let\'s commit afresh to
prayer with bold expectation (Psalm 5:3) empowered by faith in
God\'s amazing grace.

---------- SUFFERING AND TERRORISM AT CHRISTMAS ----------

Many hundreds of Christians imprisoned in Eritrea, China and
Vietnam will remain separated from loved ones this Christmas.
Many thousands of Christians incarcerated in North Korea\'s
network of concentration camps may not even be aware it is
Christmas. Multitudes of believers in Asia, Cuba, Belarus, Iran
and the Arab world will celebrate the birth of the Saviour in
quiet, secret fellowships, risking persecution as they do every
week. On top of that, Christians living in jihad (Islamic holy
war) zones risk being targeted in their churches this Christmas.

In 2000 a plot to wreak massive terror over Christmas in Jordan and
the Holy Land was foiled, while in Indonesia, 19 people died and
some 100 were wounded when 18 bombs exploded simultaneously in
churches in seven cities on Christmas Eve. On Christmas night 2002,
three children were killed and 13 were injured when Islamic
militants threw grenades into a special Christmas service for
children in the Presbyterian chapel in Chianwali, Punjab. The most
vulnerable regions for church bombings this year are Indonesia,
Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq. Intelligence reports indicate
terrorists in Indonesia are in the final stages of planning for a
major campaign against churches, Western targets and foreigners.

* LET\'S PRAY:

Dear Father, we know that you love your Church with a divine love
that surpasses knowledge. We know that in your love you established
Christ as supreme authority for the benefit of your beloved Church
(Ephesians 1:22). And so we pray for those who will worship you
this Christmas amidst suffering and threats of terror - please
deliver them from evil (Matthew 6:13), surround them with your
protection, and fill them with love, joy and peace in their
Saviour.

We also know that no person is forgiven and saved because they
earned or deserved it. We testify that we ourselves were
separated from God by sin and guilt, until God reached into our
filthy, morbid darkness and rescued us from a sentence of death.
So, without pride or hate, we pray for those who sit in that
place of condemnation where we ourselves once sat. We especially
pray for those who persecute and plot terror against your Church.
We pray that you will not only frustrate their wicked plans
(Psalm 146:9) but that you will mercifully send your Holy Spirit
in great resurrecting power to amazingly and graciously rescue
and transform multitudes of lost, undeserving sinners this
Christmas.

Forgive us our lack of faith. Forgive us our pride and lack of
love. Revive and renew us that we may live and pray in harmony
with the mind and will of Jesus Christ our gracious Saviour who
came not only for us, but for others yet to be gathered (Isaiah
56:8). For the kingdom and glory of God. AMEN

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
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CHRISTMAS AMIDST SUFFERING AND TERROR THREATS

Hundreds of Christians imprisoned in Eritrea, China and Vietnam
will remain separated from loved ones this Christmas. Thousands of
Christians incarcerated in North Korea\'s concentration camps may be
even unaware it is Christmas. Multitudes of believers in Asia,
Cuba, Belarus, Iran and the Arab world will celebrate the birth of
the Saviour in quiet, secret fellowships, risking persecution as
they do every week. On top of this, Christians living in jihad
(Islamic holy war) zones risk being targeted in their churches. The
most vulnerable regions for church bombings this year are
Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq. Intelligence reports
indicate terrorists in Indonesia have planned a major assault on
churches, Western targets and foreigners. We are one body in
Christ; so in our joy, let\'s not neglect to lift our needy,
threatened brothers and sisters before the Lord this Christmas.

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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.