Prepare the Way of the Lord

I want you to go back with me. We are going to get into our time machine and go back to the time of the birth of Jesus. I want you to get into the mindset of the people in Israel at this time. Most of them were tired of serving under the Persians, the Babylonians, and finally under the Romans; those stinky, filthy, vulgar Romans. When is our King coming? When will we see our promised redeemer? We know that he was promised. King David referred to the redeemer in his songs. Many of the prophets foretold of his coming. When is he coming? Can you imagine when they hear John the Baptist say the words, “Make a highway for the Lord through the wilderness.” We’ve heard these words before; one of the ancient prophets, could it be Isaiah? Let’s turn to Isaiah 40 and read the words that we have already been read to us.

Listen! I hear the voice of someone shouting, “Make a highway for the LORD through the wilderness. Make a straight, smooth road through the desert for our God. 4Fill the valleys and level the hills. Straighten out the curves and smooth off the rough spots. 5Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!”

6A voice said, “Shout!”

I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass that dies away. Their beauty fades as quickly as the beauty of flowers in a field. 7The grass withers, and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. 8The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”

9 Messenger of good news, shout to Zion from the mountaintops! Shout louder to Jerusalem–do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” 10 Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in all his glorious power. He will rule with awesome strength. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

This morning we begin our journey through the Advent season. Some of you will recognize the titles of these sermons as coming from Handel’s Messiah. This week we will take a look at “Prepare the Way of the Lord.” Next week the title is “Surely He Has Born our Griefs”, then “Comfort Ye My People,” and finally, “Who is This King of Glory.” Most of you will remember that Advent is a time of preparation. There are two seasons of preparation in the church year. Advent is the first and Lent is the second. Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas. It is looking toward the coming king. Many times during Advent we concentrate on the baby in a manger. Today we will focus on the coming king. He will split the Eastern sky to return for those who believe in Him. My question is, are you preparing the way for the Lord? Let’s take a look at Matthew 25.

“The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of ten bridesmaids[a] who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3The five who were foolish took no oil for their lamps, 4but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. 5When the bridegroom was delayed, they all lay down and slept. 6At midnight they were roused by the shout, `Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and welcome him!’

7″All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. 8Then the five foolish ones asked the others, `Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’ 9But the others replied, `We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. 11Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, `Sir, open the door for us!’ 12But he called back, `I don’t know you!’

13″So stay awake and be prepared, because you do not know the day or hour of my return

My first question is, “Are you ready?” The coming of the Lord will be swift and sure. Once He comes there will be no time to get ready. Are you ready for His coming? Let’s make it very plain. Those who will go with Jesus are those who have been received into His kingdom; those who have believed on him and his name. If you haven’t received Him, He won’t be coming for you. You will be left behind. When is he coming? We don’t know. Jesus said that even he did not know when the Father would send him back. I know this. I believe that Jesus is coming back again. Each day that passes by only makes his return sooner. Most of you know that I’m not a big prophecy fan. I don’t get into all of the charts and maps. I’m not always trying to figure these things out. But the day is getting closer. The time is getting short. We are in the last days, whether they be tomorrow or a hundred years or even more from now. The technology that we have available now is getting frightening close to what the scriptures describe. The time to come to the Lord is now. The scriptures declare that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Like the old Fram oil filter commercial. Either you can pay me now or pay me later. Like the song that we sang to open up worship this morning. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess, but you have a choice. You can worship Him now. Are you ready for the coming king? Is your heart ready? You can receive him now. Like I said before things won’t necessarily get easier. Our brothers and sister around the world can testify to that. It is not easy to pick up our cross and die to ourselves daily. However the benefits are out of this world. I’ll say it again that I will not trade my walk with Christ for anything. Is your heart ready?

Not only am I going to ask you if your own heart is ready, but I am going to ask it you are doing your part to help others get ready. One way we can do this is by our testimony. Let’s take a look at 2 Peter 3.

This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. 2 I want you to remember and understand what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.

3 First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. 4 This will be their argument: “Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.”

5 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth up from the water and surrounded it with water. 6Then he used the water to destroy the world with a mighty flood. 7 And God has also commanded that the heavens and the earth will be consumed by fire on the day of judgment, when ungodly people will perish.

8But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment.[a]

11Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! 12 You should look forward to that day and hurry it along–the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world where everyone is right with God.

14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God.

15 And remember, the Lord is waiting so that people have time to be saved. This is just as our beloved brother Paul wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him– 16 speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters around to mean something quite different from what he meant, just as they do the other parts of Scripture–and the result is disaster for them.

17 I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends, so that you can watch out and not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people. I don’t want you to lose your own secure footing. 18But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To him be all glory and honor, both now and forevermore. Amen.

Here’s where it all comes together. Our testimony is very important here. People need not only to see what believe by the way we act, but people need to hear what we believe. The other important thing here is that our walk lines up with our talk. 14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God.

What are the points today?

  • · We are in a season of preparation for the coming of the Christ. While we prepare for the season of Christmas or Christ’s first advent, we also prepare for his return and his second advent.

  • · Is your own heart ready for the advent of Jesus? Once he comes it is too late. Just like those who missed his coming in first century Israel, will you miss his second coming?
  • · Are you helping others get ready for the advent of Jesus? This means being faithful in your actions by living a pure and blameless life filled with the love of Jesus. Secondly, are you giving them the answer for the hope that lives inside of you? Third, does your talk match your walk?

So we enter this season of preparation and as we wait during this season of preparation, we will give you a chance to prepare your heart for the coming one.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Text: Ephesians 1:15-23

15For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

I want you to think for a moment about supreme authority. Who has the supreme authority in the world? Who has the supreme authority in this country? As we look at what Paul has written here in Ephesians, we see that Paul is making the case that Christ is the ultimate authority. As we walk through this passage this morning, this is the question I want you to answer. How can I understand how great God is?

As we begin this passage Paul thanks the church at Ephesus. It’s appropriate for a pastor to give thanks to the church for what they have done. Paul thanks the church at Ephesus for their faith in Jesus Christ and for their love of the saints. As we approach this thanksgiving season, let me take a point of personal privilege and thank the congregation of Preston Wesleyan Church. We as your pastor’s family feel loved. You have welcomed us Yankees and made us feel at home. You have a great faith in Jesus Christ and you have a love for the saints. Let me say that we appreciated your thoughts, prayers and gifts during October. I believe that God has some great things in store for us here at Preston. I’ve already seen some great things and there is an excitement about what God is going to do in the future. Let’s keep working together to advance the kingdom of God.

Paul goes on in his prayer for the Ephesians to say, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” I don’t think I could pray it much better than Paul has here. That is my prayer as your pastor, as your shepherd. Our goal as Christians (as saints as Paul puts it) is to be set apart for God’s work and to become the spitting image of Jesus Christ, God’s son. My prayer is that God would continue to work in your lives. None of us have arrived. God is always at work in us showing us more. If you stop growing in your knowledge of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you will start dying. God does not want dying saints. He wants living, vibrant saints. We have a lot of work to do.

Paul continues to pray that, “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” This is quite a prayer for Paul to pray and this would be my prayer for Preston as well. If we look at Romans 5:2, we see Paul write “and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” What does that mean? This is the Christians confidence that the purpose for which God created him will be ultimately realized. God created us to worship Him and to give Him glory. Paul prays these things for the saint in Ephesus. What is a saint? We may have many different understandings of what a saint is, but when Paul uses this terminology in his writings, he specifically means those whom God has called to be his own people (or all Christians). The word itself carried the idea of being set apart for God’s use. These are the things that Paul prays for the saints in Ephesus. As your pastor I pray these for the saints in Preston as well. They are:

  1. That they may understand the hope to which they’ve been called.
  2. That they may understand the riches of God’s inheritance among them.
  3. That they may understand the immeasurable greatness of God’s power.

In order to worship God and give him the glory that He deserves, we must understand the immeasurable greatness of God’s power.

We see the power of God in the next few verses. “That power,” Paul writes, “is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” That is a mouthful. How big is God? Think about the person in the world with the most power. Who is that person in your mind? How much power does he have? Paul paints us a picture that God raised Jesus from the dead and placed him in the heavenly places FAR ABOVE all earthly powers. Whoever you think is the ultimate authority on the earth is still thousands of miles below Christ’s authority.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand ultimate authority. We live in a culture that says there is no absolute truth. If there is no absolute truth, there is no absolute authority. Let me take it one more step, if there is no absolute authority, there is no authority. Everyone can do whatever he or she pleases. But Paul gives us something different. Christ is the ultimate authority. Think of Christ being the Supreme Court of the universe. Christ exercises supreme authority. The terminology that we use this morning is that Christ is King. Kings are hard to understand in our 21st century culture. Who is arguably the most well known heir to the throne in the world today? That would be Prince Charles. Prince Charles is the heir to the British throne. However, what happens to the British royal line is a little consequence to anyone these days. What do you mean pastor? The royal family is no more than a dog and pony show at times. I want to be careful this morning, but I have a serious question that I want you to consider. Do you treat God this way? Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, but do we really treat him that way. When we come to worship do we treat him the way he deserves or do we just come here to be part of the show? I want to caution us as a church to treat Christ as the King. My prayer is that you don’t come to church simply to attend and do your “Christian” duty, but that you come to worship him, to honor him, to glorify him, because that is why God created us.

Paul continues, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

God placed Christ above all, above everything. God even placed Christ at the head of the Church. But did you notice something crucial? We are his body, the fullness of him. If we look around at the universal church, we sure make a lousy body at times. The church is his body. I remember Dr. Earle Wilson several years ago said this. The church has not existed 2000 years because of its followers but in spite of its followers. If God would have left the church up to its own devices, it would have fallen apart long ago, but the church is the body of Christ. There is something supernatural about the body of Christ. We don’t do a very good job at times being the body of Christ and yet that’s exactly what we are called to be and that’s who we are. Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. God placed Christ at the highest place that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

A Prayer for the Church in the World

Eternal, Almighty, God our Father,

Because you are sovereign in all history – past, present and future – and supreme over all creation – visible and invisible – and compassionate towards all you have made – especially your children – we come to you with our prayers for the Church in the world. We pray especially for that part of the Body that is presently suffering, bleeding, grieving and in some places, clinging desperately to life.

We consider Jesus Christ our Saviour Redeemer, who as ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us – was a ‘cross-bearer’. He suffered unjustly to redeem his Church, which now suffers unjustly to spread the blessings and Good News of redemption to the world.

We approach the throne of grace emboldened by the knowledge that because he suffered and was tempted, Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, does sympathise with those who suffer and are tempted. So we boldly request your promised grace and mercy be poured out upon our brothers and sisters who are this day in great need.

For those who have, through systematic discrimination, been forced into crippling poverty:

Lord, in your mercy, comfort them and provide them with their daily needs.

For those who are abused and intimidated by hostile state authorities, or religious militants or zealots:

Lord in your mercy, protect, comfort and encourage them.

For those who live as refugees or as people displaced by terrorism, war and/or persecution:

Lord, in your mercy, grant them comfort, security and peace, and provide all their daily needs.

For those who walk daily in the valley of the shadow of death:

Lord, in your mercy, grant them courage and assurance of your presence and faithfulness.

For those who are suffering violent persecution:

Lord, in your mercy

– free the enslaved and return them to their homes;

– release the imprisoned and restore them to their families and churches;

– heal the emotional, spiritual and physical wounds of the traumatised, grieving, disillusioned, doubting, tortured and brutalised;

– restore the soul of the faint-hearted.

We thank you for your Holy Spirit who never leaves us and is present with our suffering brethren, even in the darkest, most secret, place. May your Spirit comfort, counsel, and restore our persecuted brethren, including those who suffer outside our field of vision and beyond our reach to aid.

We pray for the leaders of nations and for all those with authority and influence on this earth:

Lord, in your grace and mercy

– convict them of guilt regarding sin, righteousness and judgment;

– turn their hearts towards righteousness, justice and religious liberty;

and, for the sake of the world, remove those who defiantly resist your Spirit,

and replace them with leaders raised up to be your instruments for good.

We pray these things with confidence because you have already promised that you will do it.

You are the God who breathes life into the dead. You are the God who redeems and sanctifies. You are the eternal, supreme and sovereign God who raises up and tears down powers on the earth and in the heavens. You are the God who is building your Church and filling the whole earth with your glory.

Revive your Church throughout the whole world, and by your Holy Spirit working in and through her, do immeasurably more than we could ever dare ask or even hope, not because we deserve it, but because you are merciful and faithful to all your promises for your own name’s sake…

…and to God be all the glory, now and forever.

Amen

Patience in Suffering

I want you to use your imaginations this morning. Think about how you prepared for worship this morning. Perhaps you turned on the radio and listened to Christian music or perhaps you put a CD or tape in the stereo and listened to it. Or maybe you turned on the TV and watched another church’s worship service. Perhaps you sung along with the songs that you were listening to. Before long it was time to go to church. You went to the car and you drove here. You came in and you were seated. For many Christians around the world this morning that is not the case. Instead of getting up and listening to Christian music or watching Christian TV you simply got up when the sun came up, and prepared to go to church, maybe quietly humming a favorite hymn. As the sun comes up you begin your journey to church. If you are a family, you probably won’t go together, but will arrive at separate times. When you arrive at church, it’s not a building like this one but a “house church.” You are greeted by the pastor at the door and head downstairs. People arrive in pairs as to not arouse the suspicions of the authorities. There is just enough light downstairs to read by and as the pastor comes down and greets you, he speaks in quiet hushed tones. As you begin to sing, you sing in hushed tones as well, no worship leader encourages you to sing at the top of your lungs, no you don’t want to be heard. You are doing something illegal. You are in a country where Christianity is forbidden. Imagine no hymnals, no Bibles to speak of, instead a leader reads from copied papers. You would more than likely have the scriptures memorized. What does it feel like to worship like that every week? You never know when someone is going to out you. You never know when you are going to end up in jail.

For many around the world the scenario I just painted is a harsh reality.

Did you know that?

· More people were tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ in the 20th century than in all the previous 19 centuries combined.

· Over 100 million people were martyred for there faith in the 20th century. More people died in circumstances related to their faith in the past century than in all the 20th century wars combined.

· You would think that persecution has lessened since the fall of communism, however the reality is that it has increased and that an estimated 200 million Christians face persecution around the world.

· Let me give you a quote from the 2005 State Department Report on Religious Freedom:

o The 2005 report covers 197 countries and territories. In some countries, we find that governments have modified laws and policies, improved enforcement or taken other concrete steps to increase and demonstrate respect for religious freedom. In far too many countries, however, governments still fail to safeguard religious freedom. Across the globe, people are still persecuted or killed for practicing their religion or even for just being believers.

o This year, we have re-designated eight “Countries of Particular Concern” — Burma, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam. These are countries where governments have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom over the past year. We are committed to seeking improvements in each of these countries, improvements like those we have actually seen in Vietnam, which have been further advanced by agreement on religious freedom that our governments signed just this last May.

In spite of these facts and the persecution that surrounds them, Christians around the world endure the suffering. Why would they put themselves through it? Should we endure persecution if it comes to us? Let’s take a look at another passage from the letter of James. James is a practical man of God. What does he say about persecution and suffering?

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge stands at the door.

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers, do not swear-not by heaven, or by earth or by anything else. Let your “yes” be yes , and your “no” be no, or you will be condemned.

Such a short passage and yet there is great wisdom in these five verses. James tells us that we need to patient until the Lord’s coming. Perhaps another word we could use here is to persevere. God knows exactly what he is doing. God is in control. Can you imagine what it is like to be patient in suffering? It’s just like the farmer that James has mentioned here. A farmer can’t just plant the seed and expect it to bloom overnight. We in America have been spoiled and we are ready for instant anything. God can do a work in us overnight, but he usually chooses to do his work in us the way the plant grows. It takes watering. It takes days in the warm sun. It takes cultivating. And when the farmer waits through the summer he reaps a great reward.

James encourages the believers who are suffering to be patient and they will receive the reward of a heavenly crown. The Lord is coming. As we look around, with each passing moment the Lord’s return is nearing. We are going to return to this theme several times over the next few weeks. The more persecution that comes just means that the Lord’s return is getting nearer. Our brothers and sisters around the world understand this.

James tells us to be patient in suffering why, because those who endure suffering will be blessed. That sounds odd in our culture today. In our western culture we have pastors and TV evangelists who tell us that if our faith is where it should be, we won’t ever be sick, we won’t ever be poor or won’t face any persecution. BALONY! Jesus told us that if we were in the world we would face persecution. I wonder at times if that is why we in the western culture are so apathetic and lazy. The American church has faced no serious persecution. The church in America is dying. The church in persecuted areas is growing. We no longer face the tyranny of communism. When Pam was growing up, her sister Barb began hiding Bibles in the house so that if the Soviets conquered our country, she would still have a Bible to read. Our enemy isn’t that blatant. The Christians that are facing the worst persecution are those who are in lands that overtly religious. Islam and other religions are responsible for much of the persecution of Christians worldwide. There is still some country-state persecution as in China and other areas. They are being persecuted because they are doing what Jesus commanded us to do. If we were doing the things that he has called us to do we would face persecution. James tells us to go take a look at the Old Testament prophets. They were constantly facing suffering in doing the work of God. He also gives us the example of Job. Job you will remember was a man of God. He was upright and blameless and yet Job faced a great trial in his life. He lost everything except his wife and life. At times I think it would have been better for him to lose his wife as well. Why? She told Job after all he had suffered to curse God and die. That’s great advice, don’t you think? Job endured it all and his crazy friends who told him he must be doing something wrong. But through it all Job was a faithful man to God and God restored him in the end.

Blessed be your name in a land that is plentiful,

Where the streams of abundance flow

Blessed be your name.

Blessed be your name when I’m found in the desert place

Though I walk through the wilderness

Blessed be your name.

Blessed be your name when the sun’s shining down on me

When the “world’s all as it should be”

Blessed be you name

Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering

Though there’s pain in the offering

Blessed by your name.

Every blessing you pour out I’ll turn back to praise

And when the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away, you give and take away, yet my heart will choose to say, blessed be your name.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your glorious name

What’s the point? God needs to be praised in the good times and the bad. Our brothers and sisters in Christ know this very well. James goes on to say that those who endure trials and persecution will be blessed because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

So What? So what can we do to be a blessing to our brothers and sisters around the globe? What can we do to encourage our fellow Christians? There are three ways:

  • We can refresh suffering Christians – Have you ever been working out in the yard in the hot summer and someone brings you a wonderful cool glass of water? We can refresh those who are suffering by praying for them—and let them know that we are praying for them by sending messages of encouragement.
  • We can demonstrate that we are not ashamed—Brother Andrew (God’s Smuggler) often experiences this as he visits persecuted Christians. “Just you being here is worth 10 sermons!” believers tell him. When we let persecuted Christians know we are not ashamed to be identified with them, we give them great encouragement.
  • We can “search them out” – Today, many persecuted Christians are isolated and alone as they suffer. By partnering with organizations such as Open Doors or Voice of the Martyrs you search out these believer and reach them with your love and encouragement.

This morning we are going to conclude our service by lifting up our fellow believers in prayer. How should we pray? What would they have us pray for, an end to the persecution? Their prayers are for:

    1. Boldness to stand firm and maintain a vibrant witness so the Good News can spread.
    2. God’s protection over the body of Christ
    3. Grace to forgive oppressors
    4. Deliverance of their nations from spiritual bondage
    5. That God would open doors for Bible translation, distribution of Christian materials, and evangelism
    6. Wisdom for authorities ruling over them
    7. The lifting of legal and social restrictions against Christians
    8. That God would raise up church leaders with spiritual and moral integrity
    9. For unity in the church and warm fellowship among believers

Let’s stand in a symbol of unity to pray for Christians around the world suffering for the sake of Christ.