Christians in China Pray for Persecution—
For America

James Draper, president of the Southern Baptist's LifeWay Christian Resources, says believers attending Chinese house churches are praying that American Christians might experience the kind of persecution they have seen in China so that it would ignite a similar revival in America.

Draper, a prominent leader in the rapidly expanding Chinese house church movement, was asked how American Christians could pray for house churches in China. "Stop praying for persecution in China to end," he said. "For it's through persecution that the church has grown.... We in America are being bowled over by the ball of secularism." Draper said the "sleeping Christianity" in North America needs a wake-up call.

Assist News Service via MissionNet

After Gaza Pullout, Jerusalem Looms as Key  Peace Issue

As painful as it has been, Israel's evacuation of nearly 9,000 of its own angry and heartbroken settlers from the Gaza Strip may be the last "easy" part of forging peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Many tougher issues remain, both sides agree.

For starters: What to do about the much larger West Bank? How to deal with rapid Arab population growth within Israel itself? How to guarantee safe borders and peaceful relations between Israel and a future Palestinian state? How to end terrorist attacks once and for all? Perhaps the toughest: What to do about Jerusalem?

"Gaza is kind of cut off over there by itself, so it was a lot easier to negotiate," a longtime Southern Baptist representative in Israel said. "Once you start talking about the West Bank, you're starting to talk about Jerusalem, and that's where the peace agreement fell apart last time. It's going to come down to Jerusalem."

The holy city claims the hearts of Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. It is, in turn, claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their eventual and "eternal" capital. East Jerusalem—which lies primarily within the West Bank controlled by Jordan before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war—is overwhelmingly Palestinian. A third of Jerusalem's total population consists of ethnic Arabs. Conflicting political claims on the city must be settled before a permanent peace agreement can be completed.

Baptist Press

Catholic Indulgence Is Back After 500 Years

A Catholic practice, which gave rise to Martin Luther's reformation in the 16th century, has surfaced again as a topical issue 500 years later. Pope Benedict XVI promised the approximately 800,000 participants of the recent World Youth Day in Cologne total indulgence, provided they confessed their sins, repented, and received Holy Communion. Non-participants could receive partial indulgence if they prayed earnestly for a courageous Christian testimony at the mass event.

The idea of indulgence is tied to the Catholic teaching of purgatory. In short, it means that temporal punishments for sins in the hereafter can be avoided or shortened by repentance and good deeds in this life. Luther protested not only against the malpractice but also against this Catholic teaching in principle, as the leading bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, Hans Christian Knuth, pointed out.

Lutherans cannot accept purgatory and indulgence, even in a reformed modern Catholic understanding, as the bishop emphasized in an interview with the evangelical news agency idea. The teaching of purgatory and indulgence is, in his words, neither in keeping with the Bible nor the central articles of the Christian faith. The wages of sin cannot be removed by any human action, but only by the grace of God and through faith in Jesus Christ. Neither can His redemption be supplemented with good deeds.

Assist News Service via Religion Today Summaries

Nigerians Plead for End of Sharia Law

Church and government leaders in northern Nigeria are growing restless over President Olusegun Obasanjo's failure to prevent northern states from using Islamic law (sharia) to persecute Christians. Nigeria's northern Christian leaders have demanded that Obasanjo's government put a stop to the Islamic law practiced in 12 northern states. Saidu Dogo, secretary general of the northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said the organization has written Obasanjo about Muslims demolishing church buildings, rejecting applications to build new churches, and denying land to Christians. "Yet, we see mosques being built on every corner of the streets—you don't even need government approval in these states to build mosques," Dogo said.

Compass via MissionNet

Millions of Chinese Embrace Christianity in "Social Revolution"

Chinese are embracing Christianity in a social revolution that is spreading through town and countryside, to the point that Christians may already outnumber members of the Communist Party of China. Visits to villages in backward rural provinces or to urban churches in Beijing, where even on weekdays the young and middle-aged gather to proclaim their faith, confirm the ease with which conversions can be won. "City people have real problems, and mental pain, that they can't resolve on their own. So it's easy for us to convert these people to Christianity," said Xun Jinzhen, who preaches to customers at a beauty salon in Beijing. "In the countryside, people are richer than before, but they still have problems with their health and family relationships. Then it's also very easy to bring them to Christianity." State-sanctioned Protestant and Catholic churches in China count up to 35 million followers, making Christianity the third most practiced religion in the country after Buddhism and Taoism. Islam ranks fourth. Even more significant is a steadily growing network of underground "house" churches which have up to 100 million members. That compares with an official total of 70 million members of the Communist Party, many of whom have lost faith as the party has moved away from strict ideological principles toward increasing acceptance of free markets.

WorldWide Religious News/Telegraph) via MissionNet

Antiochian Orthodox Church Parts Company with NCC

The nearly 400,000-member Antiochian Orthodox Church of America is parting ways with the National Council of Churches (NCC) due to that body's liberalism. On July 28, the church's Archdiocesan Convention voted overwhelmingly to quit the NCC, which currently includes 35 U.S. Protestant, Anglican, African American, Living Peace, and Orthodox denominations. Among the reasons the Antiochian church has cited for the split are the NCC's ongoing support for homosexual causes and its general secretary's withdrawal of his signature from a joint Christian Marriage Declaration with Catholics and Evangelicals several years ago. A denomination spokesman recently noted that the interchurch group had "lost its goal of unity on a doctrinal basis" and that Antiochian officials were displeased by a recent NCC fundraising letter urging church members to fight conservatives.

Agape Press via Religion Today Summaries

Pro-Gay Message On Starbucks Cups

After nearly a decade of lying low, Starbucks has reentered the homosexual rights movement. The international coffee shop chain has begun a program called "The Way I See It" which is a collection of thoughts, opinions and expressions provided by notable figures that now appear on Starbucks' paper coffee cups. One of the quotes is by author Armistead Maupin. It reads, "My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too [expletive] short." A company spokesman said Starbucks began the "The Way I See It" program as an "extension of the coffeehouse culture—a way to promote open, respectful conversation among a wide variety of individuals."

Baptist Press via MissionNet

Muslims in Kosovo Destroy 150 Churches

The destruction of 150 church buildings and the simultaneous construction of 200 mosques may reveal a significant threat if Kosovo is granted full independence, said a former U.S. diplomat, Thomas Patrick Melady, in an Aug. 15 report from Cybercast News Service. Ethnic Albanians, most of whom are Muslim, are carrying on a campaign against Christians in the UN protectorate. Kosovo is still technically a part of Serbia and Montenegro, though it is administered by the UN as an international protectorate. Eighty-eight percent of Kosovo's population consists of ethnic Albanians with a minority of Serbs, Turks, Roma, and Slavs.

The province has been the center for the Serbian Christian Orthodox Church since the 12th century. However, between 1999 and 2004, approximately 150 churches, monasteries, seminaries, and bishop residences were attacked and priceless relics destroyed. Some 200,000 Serbs reportedly have fled Kosovo because of the violence, and more than 18,000 legal complaints have been filed against Albanians for confiscating church and private property.

Voice of the Martyrs via MissionNet

90-Day Prayer Period Underway

A 90-day period of worldwide prayer for Saudi Arabs continues through October. Here are some prayer requests you can use to lift them up: Pray that God will pour out His Spirit on Saudi Arabs and draw multitudes of people to Himself. Pray that God will give the people He draws to Himself the faith they need to believe that Jesus is God's Son and to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. Pray that whole families—and whole tribes—will come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord. Pray that the royal family and Saudi government leaders will come to know Jesus as Lord. Pray for the effectiveness of radio, television, satellite, Internet and other media that bring the gospel to Saudi Arabs. Pray for the persecuted believers in Saudi Arabia, that God will grow His church out of their persecution. Pray for the body of Christ to be strengthened and to grow in purpose and unity throughout the country. Pray that God will draw Saudi Arab children and youth to Himself and reveal the truth of His salvation and love to them. Pray for Saudi Arab women who live under oppression and control from their families and society in general. Pray that God will lift their yoke of oppression and replace it with freedom found only in Christ.

Baptist Press via Religion Today Summaries

"Wales Desperately Needs Awakening"

"The church in Wales is in an appalling state, spiritually," says Peter Leavers, pastor of Antioch Church in Colwyn Bay and founder of Heart Cry for Wales, a ministry devoted to bringing revival back to Wales. "Only 5% of our population attends church," he said. "There are not many evangelical Wales. We need a spiritual awakening." Heart Cry for Wales began a decade ago when Leavers invited 700 pastors throughout the nation to meet for a day of prayer. About 50 clergy from various denominations showed up. Since then, he's organized more than 60 prayer gatherings. Leavers said that many times in the last 10 years he and his small band of praying pastors have felt like Gideon's army. At the most recent gathering, just a dozen people showed up. "The church has ceased to be relevant," he said. "People have discounted Christianity because they don't believe it has anything to show them." Despite the state of the Welsh church today, Leavers remains hopeful. "There is a Welsh spirituality that wants to go deeper," he said.

Assist News Service via MissionNet

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