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Archive for June, 2014

Brazil: Evangelical Revolution

Brazil – and much of Latin America and the Caribbean – is in the midst of what believers proudly call an ‘evangelical revolution’. According to the IBGE, Brazil’s census board, the country’s Catholic population fell from around 89% in 1980 to 74% in 2000, while its Pentecostal flock grew from 3% to 10%.

A public expression of this new evangelicalism is the ‘March for Jesus’. Over half a million Christians gathered in Rio de Janeiro in early June this year. The annual event was held under the slogan ‘I belong to Jesus. I am a champion’, in honor of the participants’ faith and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which Brazil is hosting this year. Another ‘March for Jesus’ is planned in Sao Paulo on 12 July, a day before the World Cup final. This one is expected to draw 2 million participants. It’s the country’s largest religious gathering, and more popular than the Salvador Carnival.

March for Jesus, Brazil

March for Jesus, Brazil

Cesar Romero Jacob, a political scientist at Rio’s Catholic University, said Brazil’s evangelical revolution has gripped two key areas: remote regions in the Amazon and the deprived outskirts of Brazilian cities. A ‘state vacuum’, where poverty, violence, alcoholism and prostitution proliferated, has laid the foundations for the boom. “If the Catholic church and the state are absent, somebody else will occupy the space,” says Jacob. “Pentecostalism occupied it. The first movers often are mothers who are worried about their husbands becoming alcoholics, their daughters becoming prostitutes or their sons becoming drug traffickers. The church helps to hold their family nucleus together.”

“It is Jesus who cures. She is an instrument”

Brazil’s evangelical revolution also sees miracle healers take centre stage. Take Alani dos Santos, a ‘child healer’ better known as the Missionarinha or Little Missionary, who is reputedly capable of healing the sickest of congregants with a touch of her hands. Twice a week, bandage-clad and cancer-ridden believers flock to one of her church services in search of a miracle. “Thousands of people have been touched,” says her father, Pastor Adauto Santos, 44, a former hairdresser and car thief who runs what is one of Rio de Janeiro’s most talked-about churches. “She’s a normal kid – apart from this gift,” he says, adding: “It is Jesus who cures. She is an instrument.”

But there is also growing opposition to Brazil’s evangelical ‘success preachers’ and the increasing use of infant evangelists, as the motives are not always pure and self-enrichment is common. While many question why Brazil’s poorest citizens should pay a tenth of their meagre wages to churches, Cesar Romero Jacob says the decision is often pragmatic. “My theory is that people are paying to be citizens in a place where they can,” he says. “In this environment they feel they are someone. It is a form of leisure, a place where you can find work, where you feel protected.”

It’s a typical contrast in Brazil: while the number of evangelical believers in Brazil continues to grow and Brazil has become a missionary-sending nation, still 20% of the population lives in slums. As the world’s attention is on Brazil this month, it’s a good moment to pray for the advance of the Gospel in this nation.

LINKS:
March for Jesus
Prayercast Brazil
Vocativ: the little missionary

Source: Tom Phillips, Prayercast, Vocativ, Jessica Martinez, March for Jesus

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Brazil: Serving Christ in the favelas

Since his inauguration last year, pope Francis has been consistently working for the poor, boldly pointing out the need for social justice in countries with huge rich-poor gaps. During his first overseas trip to Brazil last year he challenged priests to bring the message of the Gospel to the world’s slums. “It is in the favelas that we must go to seek and serve Christ,” he told thousands of bishops, priests and seminarians from around the world gathered for a mass at Rio’s St Sebastian Cathedral. “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel.”

“In many places, the culture of exclusion, of rejection is spreading. There is no place for the elderly or for the unwanted child. There is no time for the poor person on the edge of the street,” he added. “Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the outskirts, with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church. They too are invited to the table of the Lord.”

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One of the priests who has faithfully ministered in the slums of Rio is Father Renato Chiera. He has been a priest for 46 years, and for 36 of those he has lived in the slums. For nine years he saw children get murdered in drug wars. But the final straw came when he found 30 dead people in his parish. In 1986 he decided to build a shelter for homeless teens, the ‘Casa do Menor’. “We have many teenagers who have committed murder,” he says. “That destroys their already low self-esteem, and they see no future. They usually don’t have a family and they try to find a replacement in gangs or drug cartels.”

The ‘Casa do Menor’ now has 25 centers all over Brazil, providing medical care, education and sports. With the 2014 FIFA World Cup taking place in Brazil, Father Chiera hopes part of the spotlight will be on children at risk who try to escape a world of drugs and violence.

Source: Pope Francis, Renato Chiera

Global: Good news for the slums

Today one billion of the earth’s people live in slums. Ashley Barker calls the church to action to prioritize urban slums and to impact them with the good news of Jesus Christ. Who will stand with the slum dweller until ‘justice rolls down like a river and righteousness like a never ending stream?’ she asks in this Lausanne World Pulse article.

Source: Ashley Barker

Joel News Intertnational 910, June 26, 2014

He woke up totally healed, by Daniel Kolenda

cfan1Have you ever drifted off to sleep . . . and suddenly woke up totally HEALED?  When you’re sitting in the presence of God, it can happen.

In fact, that’s exactly what took place on night 3 in our Great Gospel Campaign in Accra, Ghana.

It was one of those nights that is hard for me to describe. As always, our emphasis was on the preaching of the Gospel of salvation, to which many thousands responded.

But when the Gospel is proclaimed the inevitable result is miracles.  Even though I hardly said anything about healing, the Holy Spirit loves to confirm the lordship of Jesus and manifest His Kingdom through supernatural demonstrations.

“And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.”  (Mark 16:19-20)

And on this one particular night, we saw so many hearings: A man blind for ten years healed. A woman with an issue of blood healed. A deaf man healed. A lady threw her walking stick away. A woman took off her neck brace. I even danced with the woman who had been crippled.

But the most moving testimony came at the very end. A man, who had been deaf for almost two years, had just arrived in town by train. He had a long lay-over for his next connection so he unwittingly ventured into the city center (Independence Square, where our campaign was being held).

He was a Muslim. He had no intention of coming to a Gospel meeting. He could not understand anything that was going on anyway … so he laid down and went to sleep. (He was about to make a divine connection.)

When he woke up, to his utter amazement, he could hear!  He came to the platform and stood before me trembling, overcome with emotion. He had a look of shock on his face. “My name is Mohammed,” he said, and he  proceeded to tell me his story.

I asked him if he knew who had healed him and he said it is “The messenger of the Almighty God  .. Jesus.” The whole thing was so raw and fresh. I could see he was struggling to come to terms with what he had just realized. “Jesus is, Jesus is … he is a God,” he said, as though the thought had just occurred to him.

He said, “Even the Koran says if you do not believe in Jesus Christ you are not a good Muslim.” He seemed to be trying to justify this to himself.

But I wanted to make it clear for the thousands watching this unfold. “Jesus is not just a messenger.” I said, “He is the SON of the living God. He is the Way, He is the Truth and He is the Life…”

He jumped up and down and shouted, “I thank God. I thank. God. I can hear. I can hear.” By the end of our conversation, he seemed to be settled and completely sure, but he desperately wanted to get the message to his wife.

So he boldly announced the name of the city where he lives and in his own words he said, “My wife is not watching this  … but I persuade anybody who knows me and sees my face    …  that my name is Mohammed (he also shouted his last name) and you can tell my wife that Jesus is the Son of God. And tell her that I am healed. I am healed. I can hear. I can hear.

I wish you could have seen the crowd. No football team has ever received such enthusiasm – they were jumping and dancing and shouting with joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is a moment I will never forget.  YOU HELPED TO MAKE THAT MIRACLE MOMENT HAPPEN for that dear man. Your prayers and your financial support make you a key part of EVERY single miracle o salvation and healing in our meetings.

cfan2There are more men and women (just like Mohammed) who need to find out that Jesus is the SON of God; that He can save their souls; forgive their past; and heal their hurts.

Please ask the Lord what you should give and sow into this soul-winning soil … and make your next gift a personal act of obedience to His leading in your heart.

You have no idea just how much your prayers and gifts matter. But God does … and He sees and knows how to supply, bless and multiply every seed that you sow …  according to His word.
(2 Cor 9:8-10)

Evangelist Daniel Kolenda, 2014
http://www.cfan.com

See video on:
http://danielkolenda.com/2014/12/31/mohammed-confesses-jesus/

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Your Smart Phone as a Spiritual Resource

shopping10 Ways to Make Your Smart Phone a Spiritual Resource

Covenant people in covenant with our covenant God

We live in a technologically rich (and distracting) culture.  Most of us have smart phones, tablets, laptops and all the accessories to go along with them.  We can check email, send a text, upload a photo, or update our status almost anywhere and anytime.  This is a great resource, but it can also be very distracting and time consuming. Despite all our modern conveniences many of us struggle to fit everything in that we’re required to do for our job and family much less spend quality time with God regularly.

So here are ten ways you can use your smart phone or tablet to bring you closer to God and to pray more often.

1. Take five minutes to be inspired by a devotional/Bible reading app

Only got a few minutes? Download an app for daily bible verses, quotes and prayers. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, open the app and see how today’s bite-size bits of inspiration relate to your life.  Make the prayer your own and share your own thoughts with God after reading.

2. Capture God moments with your camera

God is on the move and speaking in so many ways we may not expect. Set yourself the challenge to be on the lookout for things, sounds, places and people that help you think about or talk to God today. Take a photo or video and keep a digital journal of what God is saying and how you’re connecting.

3. Don’t go it alone – Share your prayer requests

Got something you really need God to help with? Why not get your friends to pray with you. Find two people to whom you can send and receive private messages. When a need arises send a photo/text of what you need prayer for instantly through an app like Snapchat. Make sure you pray for God’s help as you press send and add your amen to their requests in return. (Don’t have Snapchat? There are other means of sending private messages too – you could DM on Twitter, message on Facebook or just text)

4. Playlists that plug you in

Got a regular walk or commute? Create a playlist to plug you in to God. Download theworship tunes that stir you and connect you to Jesus and what he cares about. You could even create different playlists for chilled, meditative moods and wake-me-up-now worship journeys.

5. Use social media to help you pray for others

Fancy shaking up whom you pray for? Why not open up a social media app or site and pray for the first person in your home feed. Ask Jesus to give you an encouraging comment to leave them after you’ve prayed.

6. Use a news application to pray for the world

Ever find praying for the world daunting? Download a news app and choose one news story with your first tea/coffee/smoothie of the day. If you find it hard to start praying imagine what the best possible outcome of the situation could be and ask Jesus to intervene. Keep it simple, specific and pray,“your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

7. Take the plunge – turn off your phone!

Silence can be scary but there’s nothing like silence and space to help you relax, clear your mind and connect with God. If you find it hard try finding a quiet place and turning off your phone as a sign that you’re switching off from the world and switching on to God for just two minutes a day. As those two minutes get easier (and start to feel quicker!) try increasing the amount of time you give your attention to God. You may even want to fast from those distracting apps on your phone for a time.

8. Use the alarm to remind you to pray

Your phone’s alarm doesn’t have to be exclusively used for waking you in the morning.  Try setting it to go off at certain times of the day to remind you to take the time to pray. You may have different ways that you pray throughout the day.  In the morning you might pray out of thanksgiving and adoration.  In the evening it might be confession and repentance. It is always great to have a reminder to do what’s most important in the midst of the busyness of life.

9. Download an encouraging book

This idea may be best used on a tablet, but if your eyesight is still strong you can read an ebook on your smart phone.  Download a Christian book that will challenge and encourage you. Read a chapter while riding the train into work or just before you go to bed at night.

10. Use your phone to call someone

I know this may be a novel idea, but your phone actually works quite well as a….well, phone.  Stop texting, Facebooking, or Tweeting and actually TALK to someone.  I know it is controversial, but not long ago that was our main means of communication!  Take five minutes to call someone you know just to say “I love you and I’m thinking about you”.  Ask them if there is anything that you can pray for them about and pray for them over the phone.  Personal and direct human to human communication can be powerful.

Edited from Kenmore Baptist Church: KBC Life, June 2014

God hears children’s prayers

Myanmar: God hears children’s prayers

When children pray, God seems to move more powerfully. John Robb, chairman of the International Prayer Council, shares this observation with confidence. He witnessed it when he was director of prayer at World Vision, a large international development and child-care organization.

“Staff often observed the Lord’s miracles when our project children prayed. We actually surveyed this phenomenon in five very poor countries where staff asked the kids to pray for specific infrastructural changes, such as the resolution of community splits, and many other needs. They did this for two years, and all were astonished by the miracles that occurred. When the children prayed, the parents got healed from terminal illness, governments chose those villages for the wells or the clinics, or the terrorists were kept out of those communities where the kids were praying.”

The results were so extraordinary that ‘Children in Prayer’ (CiP) began to spread more widely within World Vision, going from five countries to twenty countries. Finally, fifty of the national offices wanted to investigate CiP as a resource for community transformation as well as for the spiritual nurture of the kids themselves.

“They included the children in their strategy for national transformation.”

“I believe that as children and youth connect with the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer, God is going to use them in all walks of life,” says Robb. “They are going to be great missionaries, great political leaders as well as lawyers, doctors, or whatever He calls them to do. If they become intercessors, God will definitely make them His agents of transformation. He did this with the child Samuel who became sensitive to His voice and later became one of the most influential leaders in history as prophet, priest and judge of Israel. Praying children and youth will have a large impact on the future of our world. In 2016 we plan to hold a World Youth Prayer Assembly which will be primarily led by the youth and children, with the older generation in support.”

A recent example of the involvement of youth in the prayer for transformational change in a nation has been Myanmar. “We had been praying for Myanmar for many years,” says Robb, “but nothing much seemed to happen. It was such a spiritually dark place as well as being oppressed by its dictatorial government. In January 2011, two hundred Christian leaders came together within the country and decided to include the children as part of their strategy for national transformation. A colleague and I were there with them for this purpose. They raised up many thousands of child prayer-warriors all over the nation, and within just a month or two remarkable developments began to happen in the political situation.”

In March 2011 the military junta dissolved. In August 2011 Myanmar transitioned to a new government that improved the country’s human rights record.

Source: John Robb, IPC

Joel News International, June 14, 2014

 

Alpha Conquers Prisons

p2aUK: Alpha conquers prisons

Drug kingpins, armed robbers and murderers. They find Jesus through Alpha, an introductory course to the Christian faith that is quietly spreading throughout Britain’s prisons. Its techniques are so powerful that it’s transforming the most brutal inmates.

Michael Emmet, drug smuggler

Take Michael Emmett, an international drug smuggler, sentenced to 12-and-a-half years. Together with his father he served time in HMP Exeter. There, he befriended the chaplain, mainly so he could use the phone to call his then girlfriend, Daniella. To curry favour, Emmett went to chapel on Sundays.

‘Oh, that’s Alpha. That’s what we want to get in the prison.’

One day, in the autumn of 1994, he was reading a copy of the Mail On Sunday and saw a picture of Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), the church in Kensington, west London that introduced Alpha. The photo showed queues of people outside, hundreds of them. He went down to show the chaplain. “Oh, that’s Alpha,” the chaplain explained. “That’s what we want to get in the prison.”

Alpha was created at HTB in 1977 as a refresher course in Christianity for lacklustre churchgoers, but vicar Nicky Gumbel re-nosed it to appeal particularly to agnostics. With great success – Alpha started converting hardened nonbelievers into committed Christians by their thousands. The course now operates in 169 countries at more than 66,000 locations (mostly churches, ranging from Catholic to Evangelical). Over 24 million people are Alpha alumni.

‘Perhaps the Holy Spirit could convert more troubled criminals?’

Its crucial feature is an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, which is explored on a weekend away that typically involves guests having religious experiences. “I think that’s why it works,” says Gumbel. “We used to be a bit embarrassed about the Holy Spirit because it sounded weird. Now we live in a world that’s much more open: the part young people find hard is the Bible and authority, but if they can have an experience of God that’s fantastic.”

Back in 1994, Alpha might have been in the public eye but it certainly wasn’t in the prison system. Exeter prison’s chaplain was excited about its potential, though, because of recent stories about congregations being spontaneously overcome by the Holy Spirit. If it was that effective, perhaps it could convert more troubled criminals? Inmate Emmett suggested they invite Gumbel to come down to the prison. Instead, Gumbel sent a team to hold a service.

‘People started to cry, people started to laugh.’

And so it was that one autumn day, a chapel full of criminals who had largely been cajoled along by Emmett and his father, found themselves stomping their feet and singing about Jesus. But the most surprising moment was yet to come. One of the Kensington cohort said a prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Right then, Emmett’s father fell over. “And before I managed to get to him,” Emmett recounts, “I had this overwhelming sense that God is real, a feeling of an introduction, and it really filled me up. I can remember the words coming out my mouth, ‘It doesn’t have to be like this no more.’ People started to cry; people started to laugh. My dad was on his back. He’s never been the happiest of souls, and he was laughing and laughing.”

After Exeter, Emmett was transferred to three further prisons: Swaleside, Maidstone and Blantyre. He brought Alpha to all of them and, because he had clout, the sessions were well attended. Others, in turn, took it with them when they were transferred, and it spread stealthily throughout the system, becoming – by accident – an important rehabilitation tool. Once Emmett was released, he volunteered to help export it to further jails in Hong Kong, South Africa, and South Korea. “God could not have chosen a better messenger,” says Gumbel, of Emmett. “St Paul was a bright guy, which was what was needed in the Roman world, and in the prison world Michael was the classic guy to choose.”

‘Today, 80% of prisons in the UK offer Alpha.’

Today, 250,000 inmates worldwide have completed Alpha; in Britain, it is offered in 80 percent of prisons. Those who take it, and also sign up for the help of its sister charity Caring For Ex-Offenders (CFEO) – which meets ex-cons at the prison gate, links them with a church and mentors them closely – have a reoffending rate of just 17 percent, compared to the national average of 58 percent for those serving less than 12 months.

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Shane Taylor, one of the six most dangerous prisoners

Another inmate changed through Alpha is Shane Taylor, convicted for two attempted murders and provoking prison riots. He was treated as a Category A prisoner. He spent most of his days in segregation. For months at a time, his food would be delivered through a secure hatch in his door, and he would be escorted to the showers by officers in full riot gear. He was put on the “ghost train”, as inmates call it, getting moved from maximum security jail to maximum security jail. Whenever he was put back on a wing, he would inevitably start trouble. His standard tactic was to retreat to his cell after a fight, strip naked so he was less easy to restrain, and wait to do battle with the officers. The Home Office came to know him as one of the six most dangerous prisoners in the country.

‘God, if you’re real, come into my life, because I hate the way I am.’

He did his Alpha course in 2005, while at HMP Long Lartin, and it actually happened by mistake. One day an officer opened his door and said he had to go to an educational class. When he arrived he was told he wasn’t on the list, and directed to the chapel. It was midway through Alpha. He sat at the back for a moment and was considering leaving when a fellow inmate told him to stay for the free coffee and biscuits. Tempted, Taylor signed up immediately.

Its message of forgiveness came to attract him. “I had always thought there were good and bad people,” he says. “I thought I was bad, so I was going to hell no matter what I did.” A few weeks later, when the course had reached its Holy Spirit session, the chaplain prayed for him in tongues. “I remember feeling daft, but he asked me to pray as well. And I just said, ‘God, if you’re real, come into my life, because I hate the way I am.’ Then the chaplain and I started talking and I started feeling an energy in my stomach. This feeling rose up and I stopped talking. I started to feel my eyes bubble up, and just sobbed and sobbed. I knew God was real then.”

As ferociously as he had thrown himself into violent crime, he became a zealous Christian. The officers were, obviously, incredulous. He lost friends, too. “People would mock me and I wouldn’t care.” Unwavering, he helped out on two further Alphas. The officers began to accept they had been proved wrong.

‘He pulled a knife on me and I just flipped and tried to grab him into my cell.’

That’s not to say there weren’t relapses. “I had an incident with an inmate where he pulled a knife on me and I just flipped and tried to grab him into my cell,” he recalls. “After, I shut the door and fell to my knees and started crying. I thought, ‘I’m still the same person.'” The chaplain reassured him that simply being penitent meant he had changed. Things take time.

This year Taylor is about to start working for CFEO, promoting the charity in the northeast. He’s repentant for his crimes, which, if pressed, he puts down to a combination of mental illness and a chaotic childhood (“There’s no excuse for what I’ve done, though. I wish I had never done it”), and has been out for seven years without re-offending.

It’s impossible to imagine where he’d be now, if he hadn’t ended up in the chapel that day. “I’ll tell you what was on my mind before I became a Christian, what I was planning to do after I got released. There were two prison officers that I was going to find. I was going to tie these officers up, brutalize them a bit, and kill their families in front of them. I was going to say to them, ‘Look what you’ve done.’ And then kill them, too.” Happily, he encountered Jesus in time.

See also 1994 May, London – Holy Trinity Brompton (Eleanor Mumford)

Source: Charlie Burton

Joel News International, June 2014

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