Instead of New Year’s Resolutions and a wish for a Happy New Year, a friend simply wished for Hope for the New Year. For those around the world and indeed, in Australia, who are experiencing persecution, hope in Christ is perhaps the only thing to cling to.
But instead of looking at it from the perspective that ‘hope is all we have’, we must shift our gaze from just hope to Hope with a capital H! Hope in a powerful God who can do more than we imagine: Psalm chapter 140, verse 12:But I know the Lord will help those they persecute; he will give justice to the poor.
And we can pray with Paul, the writer of the letter to the Ephesians that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of their imagination, flooding them with light, until they experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling—that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in them, his holy ones! From Ephesians Chapter 1, verse 18 (The Passion Translation, amended by me)
Update on Ethiopia: TPLF retreats to Tigray and appeals for ceasefire
Hope in God will not disappoint! Praise God who has turned back the battle in answer to prayer!
The head of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), DebretsionGebremichael, has written to the United Nations explaining that he has ordered all units of the TigrayDefence Force outside of the borders of Tigray to withdraw to Tigray. As the TPLF retreats it leaves in its wake 'a trail of abuse', including a multitude of displaced and massacred civilians, looted aid warehouses and vandalised empty hospitals.
But this conflict was always about much more than TPLF ambitions. Foreign elements want to weaken, divide, and rule Ethiopia (by proxy [the TPLF]) so they can dominate the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea Region. The collapse of Ethiopia would trigger a Christian crisis of monumental proportions. Please continue to pray that God will fulfil all his purposes for Ethiopia.
'The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands' (Psalm 138:8 ESV).
Update on Haiti: all 17 hostages returned free
Praise God for answered prayers.
Founded in 1981, Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) describes itself as 'a foreign-aid outlet for Amish and Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals to minister to physical and spiritual needs around the world.' On 9 October a criminal gang seized 16 American and one Canadian CAM missionaries/supporters in Haiti, where they had been visiting a CAM-run orphanage.
The gang demanded one million US dollars ransom per captive and threatened to kill them if it was not forthcoming [see RLPB 621 (27 Oct)]. Two missionaries were released on 21 November and three more were released two weeks later.
Then, on the night of 15 December, the remaining 12 hostages made a daring night-time escape, walking for hours in the dark over rugged terrain until the dawn when they approached someone who phoned for help. On 20 December, under a banner declaring, 'Praise God for answered prayers', CAM General Director David Troyer gave a press conference, rich in gracious thankfulness, announcing the safe return of all 17 hostages.
Praise God and continue to pray that Haiti will be delivered of its spiritual darkness.
Hope will not disappoint – a historical perspective
In 1860, Charles Spurgeon preached on Amos chapter 9 verse 13, envisaging that the land of Israel, which had been turned into desert during Turkish/Ottoman rule, would become fertile once again. Today, a restored Israel has ‘made the desert bloom’.
Much has changed since Spurgeon's day! Then, most Christians lived in the Judeo-Christian West, and persecution was limited largely to the indigenous Christian peoples of the Ottoman Empire.
By the year 2000, after some 200 years of Protestant missions (initially from the West, but now [since the 1960s] increasingly indigenous), most Christians live in the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, traditional or atheistic non-Western world. Multitudes exist as counter-cultural religious minorities in states with appalling human rights records and little to no religious liberty, amidst escalating intolerance.
The reason persecution has grown to be a global phenomenon is because Christianity has grown to be a global faith! God is fulfilling his promises!
At the end of 2021, Elizabeth Kendall challenged us: Dare we image a future in which churches in China and Iran are freely sending out missionaries all over the world? Dare we believe that the day may be coming when instead of Islam pressing southwards through Africa, a spiritual harvest might be reaped in Sudan, across the Sahel, and throughout West and North Africa as the Holy Spirit sweeps north unleashing revival among the Hausa, the Fulani and the Arabs? Dare we imagine a mostly Christian India or Japan or Afghanistan? Dare we trust God to be faithful to his word? 'I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Jesus, in Matthew 16:18 ESV).
Almighty God our Heavenly Father,
Please merciful God, increase our faith so that we will never tire of interceding for and supporting your persecuted Church as she serves you on the front line of an increasingly intense spiritual battle.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html