CHRISTIAN TODAY DIGEST - SPRING 2009

From:-
TORCH TRUST, Torch House, Torch Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, U.K.
Telephone: +44 (0)1858 438260, Fax: +44 (0)1858 438275, email: info@torchtrust.org
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Contents

Welcome!

Welcome to this first edition of Christian Today Digest for 2009!

Last time we mentioned Louis Braille's bi-centenary celebration service on March 21st. Well, the year 2009 is special for another reason too: it is the 50th anniversary of the Torch Trust! What better year to celebrate 50 years of Torch than the bi-centenary year of Louis Braille's birth. Good planning, don't you think?!

So keep a look out for special events to mark Torch's 50th year. The main event is a Thanksgiving Celebration Weekend, to take place 27th-29th November at Hothorpe Hall, near Market Harborough. The cost for this weekend is £185, and you can book by emailing: gailm@torchtrust.org or phoning: 01273 832282.

Many of you have been enjoying the DAISY version of the New Testament. Well, the Old Testament is now nearly complete! So again, watch this space! Within the next few months the whole Bible will be available on four CD's, cost ..............

So now, we trust you enjoy the mix of Christian news in this edition.

Jill Ferraby and the editors.

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Archbishops launch Lent appeal for Zimbabwe

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, have launched a Lent appeal for Zimbabwe on Ash Wednesday as Anglicans worldwide join in a day of prayer and fasting for the troubled country.

In a joint column in The Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, spoke of how Zimbabwe was seen as a beacon of hope during the time of Apartheid in South Africa because it was able to feed itself and had kept its social cohesion and a democratic culture.

They said that the "destruction of many people's hopes" was the worst of many casualties inflicted by President Robert Mugabe and his government. The country is now suffering from outbreaks of Cholera, Aids, hunger and massive inflation. The Archbishops said there was a danger that people would "switch off" from the problems of Zimbabwe as the people there are suffering "a slow death ... [which is] only intermittently newsworthy".

They added, however, that the Anglican Church had been working to "challenge the tyranny of the Government and the apathy of neighbours" and that it had gone through a "quiet revolution" by sacking discredited bishops and supporting those with integrity. This had come at a price, they said, with Anglican churches being targeted by government supporters and parishioners being beaten, harassed and arrested and given death threats.

The appeal for fasting came at the request of Anglican Primates who gathered for a key meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, at the end of January to discuss unity and other issues affecting the Anglican Communion. The funds raised from the Archbishops' appeal will go towards emergency aid for thousands of people affected by widespread food shortages and an outbreak of cholera that has killed more than 3,800 people.

Addressing the Church of England General Synod in February, Dr Williams said: "We hope that this will be part of a Communion-wide project for Lent, and that every diocese represented here will play its part, responding to the urgent calls for help with medical supplies, food and clean water which come daily from Zimbabwe. Please publicise this Appeal in your dioceses and continue your prayers."

Primates at the Alexandria meeting appealed to Anglicans to donate whatever they could.

"If we don't intervene we will be failing God in terms of 'when I was hungry you fed me and when I was poor you cared for my needs'," said the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Rev Thabo Makgoba, at the time of the gathering.

In a statement, the Primates called on Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe to step down: "There appears to be a total disregard for life, consistently demonstrated by Mr Mugabe through systematic kidnap, torture and the killing of Zimbabwean people. We therefore call upon President Robert Mugabe to respect the outcome of the elections of 2008 and to step down. We call for the implementation of the rule of law and the restoration of democratic processes."

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Cardinal condemns "unacceptable" limits on religious freedom

Anti-discrimination legislation is being used to limit freedom of religion "in unacceptable ways", says the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

In a lecture at Westminster Cathedral on the Church's future, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said the state needed to acquire a better understanding of the contribution and place of faith in British society. He said: "Legislation on discrimination, much of it good in itself, is now being used to limit freedom of religion in unacceptable ways. The sad and totally needless conflict over the Catholic adoption agencies is one example.

"But that is a symptom of a wider prejudice that sees religious faith as a problem to be contained rather than a social good to be cherished and respected, and which properly and necessarily has a public as well as a private dimension."

The Cardinal called upon local authorities to give the voluntary sector a "greater and more autonomous" role in the delivery of public services and to see the Church as a "partner in the common good, not an adversary".

He went on to warn that secularism was based on an "impoverished understanding of what it is to be human" and therefore could never fully satisfy human needs. "Many of the arguments of secularism seek to offer a new and liberated self-sufficient humanism. Yet, I think, they can only end in the death of the human spirit because they are fundamentally reductionist," he said.

The Church, meanwhile, "must always be an active agent in the creation and building up of a genuinely humane culture" and not give in to drawing pessimistic conclusions about its future.

He continued: "I think the greatest danger for us at the moment is to let ourselves believe what secular culture wants us to believe about ourselves, namely, that we are becoming less and less influential and are in decline. There are certainly challenges and there is much work for us to do. But on the contrary I believe that the Church has a vigorous life, and a crucial role to play in our society - more important than at any other time in our recent history."

The Cardinal said the present time was one of "preparation rather than diminishment" as he called upon the Church to refresh its understanding of the faith, work on renewing the parish community and return to a life of prayer.

"The Spirit is preparing us to bring something 'other', something 'different' to our culture, something which our culture cannot bring for itself. This 'other' is nothing else but the truth and life-giving presence of God," the Cardinal said.

Addressing the global financial crisis, he said a strong ethical framework and effective regulation were necessary if the market was to serve the common good.

"The poor must always be given effective preferential consideration," he said. "No action, even in critical times, should further disadvantage them or weaken their capacity to participate in the economic system."

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Christian Unions "excited"

Christian Unions say they are ready for the latest mission of high profile atheist, Richard Dawkins, to see secularist societies set up on every university and college campus in the UK within the next 12 months.

"God Delusion" author, Dawkins, made headlines recently by helping the British Humanist Association launch 800 bus adverts proclaiming: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Christian Unions are responding to the campaign by distributing 400,000 copies of St John's Gospel around university and college campuses and holding high profile outreach events that give students the opportunity to talk about God.

The UCCF:thechristianunions, the umbrella organisation of Christian Unions across the UK, says Dawkins' new drive for secularist student societies will only serve to raise the profile of God and faith issues even more.

Pod Bhogal, communications director at UCCF:thechristianunions, said: "Once again, Professor Dawkins is to be thanked for raising the profile of God and faith issues. His book, 'The God Delusion' was a brilliant platform for Christian Unions on which to host events where the claims about God and Jesus Christ could be openly discussed, and through that, people have become Christians. His bus adverts gave students an opportunity to ask questions about God's existence in a new way, and now his secularist society campaign on every campus will excite CUs keen to share their faith and raise the spiritual temperature amongst students."

Mr Bhogal said UCCF:thechristianunions would be encouraging the National Union of Students to ensure any meetings held by the secularist societies are open to all students to attend, including Christians.

He said: "CUs have been at the forefront of drawing up good practice with the NUS as to how religious/philosophical societies should work on campuses, and that means that every society must ensure that all its meetings are open to all students to attend. In reality, this will mean the new secularist societies must open their doors to Christian students, and they will look forward to contributing to open and honest debates about the nature of faith and belief, as well as the person and work of Jesus Christ."

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Christian Party offices vandalised

The offices of the Christian Party were vandalised following the launch of a new bus advertising campaign proclaiming that there is a God.

The adverts were launched by the party in response to the British Humanist Association's bus adverts, which state, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

The Christian Party's adverts are displayed on 50 London buses and carry the slogan: "There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life."

Police have launched an investigation after the front windows of the party's London headquarters were found smashed just days after the campaign's launch. The police suspect the incident to be a religious hate crime.

Leader of the Christian Party, the Rev George Hargreaves, said the incident was a "sign of the times" but vowed to continue on with the campaign.

"I'm disappointed more than shocked," he said, describing how in Scotland the Christian Party had experienced similar acts of violence when protesters tore down their campaign posters.

"It's just a shame that people who are intolerant of Christianity feel that they need to destroy property and to be violent," he continued. "We are not phased by it. What was intended for evil will be used for good. If they break our windows, we will just put in new windows. We don't have to get violent or angry about it. We just have to love the Lord, keep a good witness and the Lord will do the rest."

The party is due to launch the same advert in a six-week campaign in Scotland, beginning February 24.

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Christians decry "amoral" sex ed guidelines

New government guidelines on sex education have been condemned by Christians as "amoral" and "outrageous". The guidelines, published in a new government leaflet, say that parents should avoid telling their children what is right and wrong when it comes to sex.

The guidelines instead say that parents should have only a "light" discussion on values, in order to encourage children to be open and come to their own views on sexual morality.

Talking to Your Teenager About Sex and Relationships is part of an initiative by children's minister, Beverley Hughes, made available in pharmacies from the start of March.

The latest guidelines come after the headline-grabbing case of Alfie Patten, a 13-year-old boy who is believed to be the father of his 15-year-old girlfriend's baby. The leaflet tells parents, "Discussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own. Remember, though, that trying to convince them of what's right and wrong may discourage them from being open."

It also says that parents should start sex education as young as possible to prevent their children from picking up "misinformation" from other children or teenagers later on. The subject is also best raised while doing ordinary things such as watching TV or washing the dishes, according to the leaflet. The information includes a guide to the various forms of contraception available.

Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, criticised the move saying, "The idea that the Government is telling families not to pass on their values is outrageous. Preserving children's innocence is a worthy goal. We would like to see more of that kind of language rather than this amoral approach where parents are encouraged to present their children with a smorgasbord of sexual activities and leave them to make up their own minds."

Beverley Hughes defended the guidelines, saying the Government "doesn't bring up children but ... it does have a role to play in supporting parents and giving them access to advice and information".

Teenage pregnancies have been rising again since last year, after a 12.9 per cent drop among pregnancies among under 18s between 1998 and 2006.

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Christians turn to God over state of the nation

"Your Kingdom come, Your will be done" was the prayer of hundreds of Christians who gathered at a central London church on Saturday 28 February to cry out to God over the moral and spiritual crisis in the UK. The State of the Nation gathering also focused on repentance over the church's silence in the face of immoral legislation passed over the decades, particularly in the areas of the unborn child and marriage.

All mainstream denominations were represented at the gathering at the Emmanuel Centre, near the Houses of Parliament. Prayer gatherings were also held in Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh and in countries around the world, including the US, Germany and Australia, in an expression of solidarity with the London meeting.

The day of prayer and repentance was organised following a meeting at the House of Lords last December of some 80 Christians from the church, the Houses of Parliament, and the business and education sectors. The meeting focused on the moral and spiritual implications of the financial crisis and concluded with a call for a season of prayer and fasting for the UK.

David Noakes, a member of the State of the Nation facilitating group, said the prayer meeting was possibly the most important gathering since World War II.

"Only then it was a nation. Now it is a remnant people. But don't be dismayed that it is a remnant," he said, pointing to the battle won by the Lord with the 300 warriors of Gideon.

Mr Noakes chided the church for failing to speak out against ungodly legislation and urged the church not to be swayed by political correctness.

"God is not politically correct but biblically correct," he said, adding that the church needed to cast out the sin within its own ranks and return to a fear of the Lord.

Mr Noakes ended with a note of encouragement, saying that God had not forgotten about Christians in Britain because of the country's special history and that the despair brought on by the financial crisis would prompt more people to turn to God.

"There are many people in great despair because the whole world system is coming down around them. God will bring many people into the light of salvation out of that darkness and they will come back again to a fear of the Lord."

Dr Clifford Hill, also on the facilitating group, echoed his sentiments.

"God loves to use people who have been found out of distress. We will see that increase in this generation," he said.

The meeting was also joined by Pastor Jonathan Oloyede, convener of the Global Day of Prayer, London. He told Christians to overcome their divisions and unite as one under the Lord Jesus Christ and his victory on the cross.

"We need to repent of our divisions, of our failure to take responsibility," he said. "Make a commitment from today that you will be an agent for change, an agent for the Kingdom. Put a stake in the ground and declare that we will no longer be divided and that we will allow the Lord to be Lord, and that the church will rise up and say 'Lord, let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done'."

Much of the day was unscheduled, with the platform open to individuals to come to the front and share Scripture, prophesies and words they felt God had put on their hearts.

One young Christian, Thomas, told the meeting that boldness was found in being at peace with God and that the heart was important in the eyes of God.

"We can say the right things but God is looking at the heart," he said, "and he will use those who are not doing things to be honoured by men but who make their heart right before God. God is looking for 'yes' from His people," he added.

Mr Hill ended with a prophesy that winds of change would sweep through the church, through people in power and authority, and through young people and the unchurched.

"So take new heart because the Lord is with you. Your work will prosper and you will see the glory of the Lord in your time," he said. "God is raising up a powerful remnant to transform this land."

The facilitating group said there were plans for more prayer events in the coming months.

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Faith gives hope in tough times, says Blears

Faith-based groups have an important role to play in bringing hope in the face of today's economic challenges, says Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears.

Speaking at the Evangelical Alliance's Life Beyond Debt conference in early February, Ms Blears pointed to the example set by Jesus in bringing hope to the people around him.

"Even in the darkest times faith will endure and give us hope," she said. "Jesus knew exactly the kinds of challenges that people are facing today. Times were pretty tough for the people that he lived with. Practical matters of work and money and food were never far from his thoughts and indeed his actions. In every story and every encounter he always brought hope and that's one of the reasons that faith-based charities have such an important role to play as we face today's economic challenges."

Ms Blears reassured the audience of Christian leaders and charity representatives that the Government was listening to them, although she acknowledged that ignorance or mistrust on the part of Local Authorities meant that religious groups had not always received their fair share of public funding.

She invited Christians to take part in a conversation about a possible Charter of Excellence under which faith groups would receive funding from public bodies on condition that they do not proselytise or discriminate against people of different or no faith.

"There's a balance to be struck here. It's not about trying to stop [faith group workers] from talking about their faith if people ask them or being open about what motivates them. It is not about sanitising that faith motivation from the organisation," she insisted. "It is just making sure that if we spend public money, which comes from everyone in this country, then that money is spent fairly and without discrimination."

Ms Blears went on to praise Christians who demonstrate their faith with practical action, citing the Apostle James who said faith without deeds is dead, and concluded by reaffirming the hope her faith gives her.

"The Bible has a lot to say about hope. Paul rates it as one of the three defining qualities of Christian life alongside faith and love," she said. "Faith for me does give hope for the future. There is a difficult path ahead ... but I do believe we will get through this difficult time. Things will change and maybe some things will change for the better for the long-term, not only for our country but for the whole of the world. And that's why I think your input, your special point of view should be something all of our Government listens to, takes seriously, and tries to reflect in the values that we want to use to shape the future of our country."

Earlier in the conference, Credit Action president, Keith Tondeur, spoke of the challenge facing the church to preach on what the Bible has to say about money, debt and possessions. While Bible colleges "totally ignored" the issue of money, conferences often relegate it to an optional seminar.

"We are a middle class church with middle class values often totally ignoring Jesus' teaching in this key area," he said. "We need to challenge our leaders and people in high places - wake up, get real, talk about real issues that can make a difference to people."

He chided the church for failing to present the world with a Christ-inspired alternative to debt and borrowing.

"We are irrelevant to virtually everybody in this country because we do not show a radical alternative where we live out Jesus' unconditional love and where we are Jesus and we are God's hands on earth and God's wallets on earth to every single person Jesus puts in our path. But we are no different; we handle money in the same way," he said.

Mr Tondeur urged churches to help people shift their priorities from the temporal to the eternal.

"There is a world out there that wants love, forgiveness, grace, hope, joy. That's what they need. They don't need more things. And the church by and large is not offering this," he said. "We need to challenge congregations to help them understand Jesus' priorities. God is more important than money, people are more important than possessions, heaven is more important than earth."

The conference, at The Salvation Army's International Headquarters in London, brought together 60 church leaders and anti-debt campaigners.

During the day, the Evangelical Alliance, together with a range of its member organisations, launched a campaign to encourage local churches to offer practical pastoral support to congregations and local communities and to challenge Christian attitudes to wealth and possessions. It also launched a new website to encourage and resource churches to make a difference in their communities.

Matt Barlow, Chief Executive of Christians Against Poverty, said that people suffering debt felt "powerless and hopeless" to change their situation. But he said the power lay within the national network of churches to help people face the emotional and practical problems of indebtedness.

"We, the local church, can ensure that people's emotional needs and their practical needs are helped, more than probably any other group in society," he said.

The conference concluded with the release of a public statement from delegates calling people to regard wealth as a gift for the whole community that should be stewarded "justly and generously". The statement goes on to condemn usury and the "irresponsible", "morally unjustifiable and socially harmful" lending practices at the root of the current crisis.

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Salt

by Goran Andersson

Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again.
Luke 14:34, GNB

Maybe you once had a nice meal. The table was beautifully set, the flowers were pretty, the atmosphere was relaxed and the food looked delicious. Everything was excellent, except for one thing - there wasn't enough salt in the steak. "I'll soon put that right," you thought, looking for the salt. But there wasn't any salt on the table.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the salt. But it wasn't where it should have been, so it wasn't any good to you. What's the use of having plenty of salt in the cupboard, but none in the food? The purpose of salt is not to keep it in the cupboard.

The characteristics of the Kingdom of God are wonderful: righteousness, peace and love. Everyone wants these things, but they must be where they're needed. The reality of the Kingdom of God should be in the character of men and women. It should be the driving force and the highest aim of people in schools, factories and offices. It should be there in journalists and politicians, and it should permeate the atmosphere in homes and churches. If it doesn't, what good is it? Who just wants to read books about righteousness, peace and love?

Does anyone see the salt in the food on the table? Does anyone read on the menu "Steak, fried potatoes, mixed vegetables, and salt?" No, it's just there, and it makes itself known by the taste of the food. It's like the Kingdom of God in you. It doesn't have to be announced or advertised. You don't have to put on a show to prove that it's there. Just let it make its presence known by the atmosphere it creates, the peace of mind it gives, the convincing power it gives to your words, or the perseverance in doing good.

The world doesn't need teaching about all this. It's crying out for the reality. The Kingdom of God can be a reality in your neighbourhood, when it's there in you. Don't for any reason demonstrate a watered down variety of the Kingdom. Just let the salt in you be there, and you'll be surprised how appetising the things of God are to hungry people, and how they sense that you've got what they're missing! The salt in you is so good! It's from God!

[Goran Andersson, together with his wife Roswitha, worked as missionaries in Japan from 1967 - 1985. They then pastored a church before moving to Kafalla Herrgard, Sweden where Goran became Director. They have worked with Ellel Ministries since 2004 and are the Ellel Representatives in Sweden.]

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New trust celebrates 400 years of King James Bible

A new trust under the patronage of Prince Charles is to be formed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible.

The 2011 Trust will assemble scholars from across the nation and will hold conferences, concerts, readings, lectures, seminars and ecumenical gatherings. Schools will also be encouraged to run projects to generate interest in the literary, cultural and religious legacy of the Bible, while top UK universities will be giving lectures on text translation and analysis.

The occasion will also be used to promote interdenominational and interfaith dialogue, reports The Times.

The main aim of the 2011 Trust is to celebrate "the near universal cultural importance of the King James Bible; its contribution to the English language and its impact on subsequent generations".

Frank Field, a Labour MP and chairman of the trust, said on its website, "The 2011 Trust has been established by Bible Society to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible which was completed in 1611. There have been few more important single publications and its impact has been considerable and wide ranging."

The King James Version was commissioned by King James I of England, who ascended the throne of England in 1603 following the death of Queen Elizabeth I.

A team of scholars was assembled very early in his reign to work on translating the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into contemporary English. After seven years the work was completed and the King James Version was published. By the 18th century the "KJV" was the only version of the Bible being used in Protestant churches in the country.

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OM's new ministry ship to visit UK

Operation Mobilisation's newest and largest ministry ship, Logos Hope, is expected to open its doors to hundreds of visitors when it heads to the UK this spring.

The 12,000 ton vessel will start the UK leg of its world tour in Edinburgh on 2 April and, after a brief stay in its home port on the Faroe Islands, will head to Belfast and Cardiff, before winding up in London in June.

Logos Hope replaces the smaller Logos II, which retired in July after more than two decades of bringing the gospel to the world. Logos II made 350 ports of call in 82 different countries and welcomed 10 million people to its onboard educational facilities and Christian book fair.

The launch of Logos Hope comes at the end of an extensive renovation period which saw a complete refit of the bridge and the installation of an extra deck that will be used for OM's public ministry when it docks at various ports around the world. Most of the ship's renovation was carried out by volunteers from around the world.

To date, over £20 million has been donated towards launching Logos Hope. OM said a substantial proportion of the funds raised came from churches and individuals in the UK.

Whilst in the UK, Logos Hope will host special events and invite people to its book fair of 6,000 different educational and Christian titles. The ship's 350 crew members will also be on hand to meet and greet local schools, church groups and families in the international café and visitor experience programme.

"It is amazing how the Lord will use the ship," said Martha Ardila, Project Coordinator for Logos Hope in the UK.

Tour dates:

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Seven nights of prayer stoke passion for revival

Heartfelt worship ... hands lifted high in exaltation ... impassioned prayers for revival to stir in the church and for salvation to come to this nation. These were the hallmarks of seven nights of prayer held across the capital to launch this year's Global Day of Prayer London.

Between 28th January and 13th February, more than 2,000 Christians from different denominations and traditions joined as one heart to pray for God's Kingdom to come and for His will to be done in London and across the UK.

The prayer nights were held in seven different regions and culminated in an evening of prayer and worship at Westminster Chapel.

Pastor Jonathan Oloyede, convener of Global Day of Prayer London, told believers not to settle at being nominal Christians.

"We need to circumcise our hearts again and ask Jesus for the love to come to our hearts that we felt the first time we met Him. Because God is waiting for his Davids to stand up and for those who will pray that God's glory comes again to this country," he said.

Pastor Oloyede called on the body of Christ to rise up as one in prayer for London, the nation and the world.

"Are we just going to play church and fight amongst ourselves or are we going to fight for the Kingdom of God?" he said. "Sometimes the church doesn't realise we are in a battle. If we don't get on our knees and pray as we never prayed before, this nation and the church will be overwhelmed. We need a call to arms and we need everyone to become a catalyst for heartfelt prayer. It is time for this nation to be shaken to its foundation by those who really believe Jesus Christ is Lord."

Greg Haslam, vicar at Westminster Chapel, echoed his sentiments. He called on Christians to pray for a reversal of what he called the paganisation of Britain.

"We have to re-lay the foundations. We want to pray for the foundations to be recovered and for what needs to be done to save our nation. The nation is vulnerable to the gospel right now. Let's advance the gospel into our country at this time and see a great turning back to the gospel," he said.

At another prayer night in New Wine Church in Woolwich, Simon Hughes MP told Christians to pray that God would strengthen them: "where we are so that more and more people by the power of the Holy Spirit can do His will".

He said: "There is lots of work to do because there is still lots of evil in this city. We're here to pray that with every day, good overcomes evil and people will turn their lives around."

Martin Ossei, GDOP coordinator for the North-East region, helped organise the prayer night at Jesus House, one of London's largest Pentecostal churches. The evening was joined by the Anglican Bishop of Willesden, who led part of the time of prayer.

"It was a very encouraging night," said Mr Ossei. "We came away from it believing that God is doing a new thing and bringing people together. The momentum is really building for united prayer in this area and God is definitely releasing his apostles as the church prays."

He said the Global Day of Prayer was one of the ways in which God was uniting Christians from different traditions and denominations.

"The church is more united now than it has ever been because it is born out of respect. It is a unity born out of the ashes of complete disunity because there have been so many fights in the past. But respect among the denominations is rising up and we should hold onto it and continue to pray more into this."

Part of the evenings were spent praying into the social challenges facing London, such as gun and knife crime, drug abuse, and widespread hopelessness and isolation.

Les Isaac, founder of the Street Pastors initiative, challenged Christians to act as well as pray.

"Where are the good people who will be there after the church service has finished, when the late night movie is over, or standing outside the nightclub bringing hope and peace? The world is looking for us. But prayer and faith without works is dead. We need to be the salt and light. Stand up for the Lord and be part of the peacemakers in this time of hopelessness," he said.

The 2009 Global Day of Prayer London is part of a worldwide movement to mobilise Christians of all denominations in praying for revival. In London, GDOP is being held in conjunction with A Year for London, which has united churches in the capital in a round-the-clock prayer chain for revival every day for the last two years.

A major one-day event is being planned for Pentecost Sunday that will unite Christians of all traditions and generations in praying for God's Kingdom to come to the UK. The event is being held in collaboration with Share Jesus International's Pentecost Festival, a citywide festival to show the capital the very best of the church.

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Swapping weapons for the Word

Christian policeman, Michael Smith, is looking for churches to be the driving force behind a brand new initiative to rid London of gun and knife crime.

Word 4 Weapons is offering young people the opportunity to hand in their weapons at a local church and receive in exchange an "All I Need" bag containing among other things a booklet of real stories of people who have turned their lives around, a copy of the Bible, and information on how to leave behind a life of violence.

"I am concerned about the level of gun and knife crime in London. Almost every week we hear of someone being shot or stabbed," says Michael. "I am asking young people to exchange their weapons for one of His weapons - the Word, which the Bible says is a sword."

A pilot scheme has just been launched in Islington with a view to eventually rolling out the initiative across all London boroughs by 2011 and the rest of the UK by 2013.

The scheme is being run in partnership with Street Pastors and has the backing of the police and local authorities. It is the churches, however, that Michael wants to see lead the way in ridding the capital of its guns and knives.

"It's not acceptable for us as the church to say that the situation is bad but not do anything about it. As the church, or indeed any faith group, we should have something positive to give our community," he says. "We can't say it is up to the government or the council but we should be looking at what our role as the church is. We should be the prophetic voice in our communities."

Churches can take part in Word 4 Weapons either as "Participating Churches" - those that host knife bins on their premises for young people to hand their weapons over to - or "Associate Churches" - those willing to refer individuals with weapons to the closest Associate Church or have a Street Pastor come to collect it.

"The church need not be afraid of those who want to come and hand in their weapons," says Michael. "We need to evangelise, we need to minister and we need to be out in the community, not setting ourselves apart, and this is one way the church can do that."

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The Jesus Film: Thirty years of reaching the unreached

It was May 1997 when Campus Crusade for Christ first approached the director of the Church of the Nazarene's World Mission Department about partnering with them to show the Jesus Film to lost people around the world.

Since then, 9,018,540 individuals have made decisions for Christ through the ministry teams of Jesus Film Harvest Partners (JFHP), the ministry established by the denomination's World Mission Department under the direction of department director, Dr Louie Bustle.

"Dr Bustle saw the strategic opportunity such a partnership offered and a historic partnership was forged at the Campus Crusade Jesus Film Project offices in San Clemente, California in August of 1997," recalled JFHP.

The partnership made the Church of the Nazarene - a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and the World Methodist Council - the first denomination to base their main strategy for evangelism on the Jesus Film.

The two-hour docudrama was produced by CCC's Jesus Film Project in 1979. It captures the life of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Luke and is today the most translated and widely distributed film in history.

"Over the last 11 years, team members have shared thousands of stories of triumph from across the globe," JFHP said. "These stories tell of answers to decade-old prayers, freedom from witchcraft, understanding the love of Christ, salvation following persecution, release from addictions, and hope to the dying, among many others."

The motto of the "Jesus Film Project is to reach the unreached in their heart language" and the ministry currently has approximately 360 teams around the world sharing the story of Jesus through the Jesus Film, with each team comprised of three to five nationals who know the language and the customs of the people.

"The teams travel in assigned geographic areas to show the film, lead the lost to Christ, follow-up with new believers, and before leaving the area, organise new mission churches where believers gather for regular fellowship," JFHP explains.

Over a three-year period, the average film team reportedly makes 135,000 evangelistic contacts, with up to 15,000 people indicating decisions to accept Christ and 5,700 of these participating in initial discipleship.

The partnership with CCC has been touted by the Church of the Nazarene as one of the most effective evangelistic strategies it has ever undertaken.

Aside from the nine million decisions for Christ that the ministry has recorded, JFHP also reports making 50,914,249 evangelistic contacts, setting up 18,056 mission churches and preaching points, and training over 14,000 pastors from January 1998 to February 2009.

By 2010, the ministry hopes to record its first 10 million decisions for Christ.

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What's wrong with Darwinism?

by Tony Campolo

Many supporters of the principle of separation of church and state say that the Intelligent Design Theory of creation ought not to be taught in schools because it contains a religious bias.

They say that Intelligent Design proponents suggest that the evolutionary development of life was not the result of natural selection, as Charles Darwin suggested, but was somehow given purposeful direction and, by implication, was guided by God.

Arguing in favour of what they believe is a non-prejudicial science, they contend that children in [state] schools ought to be taught Darwin's explanation of how the human race evolved, which they claim is value-free and dependent solely on scientific evidence. Nothing could be further from the truth!

In reality, Darwin's writings, when actually read, express the prevalent racism of the nineteenth century, and endorse an extreme laissez faire political ideology that legitimates the neglect of the suffering poor by the ruling elite.

Those who argue at school board meetings that Darwin should be taught in [state] schools seldom have taken the time to read what he had to say. If they even knew the full title of his book, which is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, they might have gained some inkling of the racism propagated by this controversial theorist.

Then, if they had gone on to read his second book, The Descent of Man, it is likely that they would be shocked to learn that among Darwin's scientifically based proposals was the elimination of "the negro and Australian peoples", which he considered to be savage races whose continued survival was hindering the progress of civilisation.

In The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin went so far as to rank races in terms of what he believed was their nearness and likeness to gorillas. He further proposed the extermination of those races which he "scientifically" defined as inferior. To not do so, he claimed, would result in those races, which have much higher birth rates than his designated superior races, exhausting the resources needed for the survival of better people, and eventually dragging down all of civilisation.

Darwin even argued against advanced societies wasting time and money on caring for those who are insane, or suffer from birth defects. To him, these unfit members of our species ought not to survive.

In case you think that Darwin sounds like a Nazi, you are not far from the truth. Konrad Lorenz, a biologist who provided much of the propaganda for the Nazi party, made Darwin's theories the basis for his polemics. The Pulitzer Prize winner, Marilynne Robinson, in her insightful essay on Darwin, points out that the German nationalist writer, Heinrich von Treitschke, and the biologist, Ernst Haeckel, also drew on Darwin's writings as they helped Hitler develop those racist ideas that led to the Holocaust.

Those creationists who fear Darwin because his theories contradict their literal Biblical belief that creation occurred in six 24-hour days, do not get at the real dangers of Darwinism. They do not realise that an explanation of the development of biological organisms over eons of time really does not pose the great threat to the dignity of our humanity that they suppose. Instead, they, along with the rest of us, should really fear the ethical implications of Darwinism.

I hope that in school our children will be taught that it is up to science to study the processes that gave birth to the human race. But, as postmodern as it may be, I also want them to learn that whatever science discovers about our biological origins, there is, nevertheless, a mystical quality in human beings that makes each of us sacred and of infinite worth.

Personally, I hold to the belief that, regardless of how we got here, we should recognise that there is an infinite qualitative difference between the most highly developed ape and each and every human being. Darwin never recognised this disjuncture. And that is why his theories are dangerous.

[Tony Campolo is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University and served as pastoral counsellor to former President Bill Clinton.]

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