So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
We chose this verse to open with today as it strongly recalls the prayer posted on Facebook by Early Rain Church in Chengdu, China. They have asked for prayer that they will continue to pray and give, and to show their faith to the world, because it is Jesus who leads them on to the eternal. Early Rain have their eyes on the unseen; they have faith in Jesus and they are on the eternal path, but they need our prayers more than ever.
Their prayer was posted in response to a police raid launched in the early hours of last Sunday. Over 100 church members were arrested, including the pastor and the leaders, and seminary students. In some cases families have been separated and people have been placed under effective house arrest, released to their homes but placed under police guard.
Early Rain Church is an unregistered or independent church, meaning that it does not belong to the government-sanctioned Three Self Patriotic Movement, making it a target for crackdowns such as the one carried out this week. In May last year authorities detained 200 members of the church to prevent them holding a vigil for victims of a 2008 earthquake. Pastor Wang Yi, the leader of Early Rain Church, was detained by police and accused of ‘picking quarrels and causing trouble’ on 11 May, and released the following night. He wrote a statement to be released in case he was detained for more than 48 hours – following his detention last week, the statement has been released. You can read it here.
Both registered and unregistered churches in China are currently suffering under a stepped-up campaign of harassment, detentions and forced closures. Under-18s have been banned from attending church services and religious buildings have been demolished.
Indonesia’s tradition of tolerance faces increasing erosion, as the country prepares to hold presidential elections in April 2019.
Sunday 16 December
For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does; The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. (Psalm 33:4-5)
Monday 17 December
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
Tuesday 18 December
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
Wednesday 19 December
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4: 8-9)
Thursday 20 December
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.(Isaiah 40:31)
Friday 21 December
If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
Saturday 22 December
Heavenly Father, God of governments and nations, we commit the people of Indonesia to you as they enter a year in which they’ll vote for a new president. We ask you to bless the electoral process and move powerfully to bring about change: a return to tolerance, pluralism, and peace for all of Indonesia’s citizens. Amen.