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January 13 - 19, 2019
National Day of Prayer Launches PRAY Magazine
Ronnie Floyd, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, has introduced a new quarterly magazine, PRAY.
While PRAY will seek to "encourage and equip Christians in how to pray more effectively," Floyd noted that "it is also published for men and women who lead local church prayer ministries."
The National Day of Prayer publication "is just one tool we are using to mobilize unified public prayer for America," Floyd said in a news release.
"Through this resource, you can learn about how prayer impacts lives, find practical applications, and inspiration for your own prayer life."
Orderliness is the theme of articles by Floyd and several others in PRAY's inaugural January-March 2019 edition.
"In this issue, Dr. Ronnie Floyd writes about the wisest decision you can make: I will walk with God today. Getting our lives in order spiritually allows us to prioritize God's work in our lives.
"Dr. Tim Clinton invites us to pray through our relationships -- the good, the bad, the ugly, and the questionable. When our relationships are in order, we will naturally be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading because our thoughts are not as consumed with turmoil. And Rachel Cruz points out ways to order our finances, avoiding financial disasters and stress that can distract us and cause our prayer lives to become ineffective for the Kingdom."
Clinton is president of the American Association of Christian Counselors; Cruz is the host of an online money management program, "The Rachel Cruz Show," and author with Dave Ramsey, her father, of "Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money."
Additional articles in the 40-page issue are titled "Praying Your Life into Order Physically" and "Six Biblical Prayers When Tragedy Strikes."
Floyd was named as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force in April 2017. He is the senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "How to Pray," with a 20th anniversary edition slated for April, is among 20-plus book he has authored.
Subscriptions for PRAY and information about other church-related prayer resources is available at the National Day of Prayer's Church Prayer Leaders Network, https://www.prayerleader.com.
This year's National Day of Prayer will be May 2 with the theme "Love One Another."
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Prison Fellowship International Announces Death of Board Chair Ian Elliott
It is with great sadness that the Prison Fellowship International (PFI) board of directors announces the death of Board Chair Ian Elliott, who suffered a brief illness.
"Ian was a man whose life exuded love, care, encouragement, and generosity - especially for the people of Prison Fellowship International and the prisoners of the world," said PFI President and CEO Andrew Corley. "He lived out his belief that the world is full of great people - and he was one of them. His counsel, courage, and care will live on in our lives in a way that defines what a true legacy is."
Ian Elliott served on PFI's board of directors for 25 years, bringing his passion for people and the love and kindness of God to thousands of prisoners, ex-prisoners, their families, and victims of crime. He will be greatly missed.
About Prison Fellowship International:
Prison Fellowship International has programs in prisons around the world that are proven to restore prisoners, help their families, and successfully integrate them back into the community…for good!
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China Bans One of the Ten Commandments as Part of ‘National Policy’
Chinese officials entered a church in recent weeks and ordered the removal of one of the Ten Commandments – the first one – In another example of the nation’s crackdown on Christianity.
Unlike previous cases of persecution, this one took place in a government-approved "Three-Self Church" and not in an illegal, unregistered congregation.
About 30 government officials from the "patrol inspection team" took part in the November examination of the church, according to Bitter Winter, which monitors persecution in the country. An "official inspected the church thoroughly, stopped in front of the pulpit, and pointed to one of the Ten Commandments" on the wall, Bitter Winter reported.
"This must be removed," the official said.
He was referencing the First Commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me."
When church officials protested, the government official responded that President Xi Jinping "opposes this statement."
"Who dares not to cooperate? If anyone doesn’t agree, they are fighting against the country," the official said, according to Bitter Winter. He warned the church, "This is a national policy. You should have a clear understanding of the situation. Don’t go against the government."
Church members removed the Ten Commandments sign.
"This isn’t appropriate," one member of the church said. "They’re falsifying the words of God! It’s resisting the Lord!"
It wasn’t the first time the church was targeted. In August, a cross was taken down.
"In China, practicing your faith is difficult," a church member told Bitter Winter. Another said, "They are trying to corrupt our faith and make us betray God."
All religious creeds must be subordinate to the government, Voice of America previously reported.
"In other words, religious citizens must first worship the Communist Party – only then can they worship their God," Bitter Winter’s Jiang Tao wrote.
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Several Vietnamese Christians Beaten and Arrested for Refusing to Renounce Their Faith in Jesus Christ and Worship Buddha Statue
Several Hmong Christians were beaten and arrested by Vietnamese government officials after they refused to renounce their faith and worship a Buddha statue, a pastor has revealed.
Pastor Hoang Van Pa told persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern that government officials threatened 33 Hmong Protestants in Phá Lóm village in November if they refused to renounce their Christian faith.
Police reportedly gathered personal information about the 33 believers and carried out an open trial before the community. The officers presented an image of the Buddha and tried to force the Christians to abandon their faith and worship the Buddha statue instead. Four of the Christians were arrested and beaten, and government officials continued to harass Protestants in several other raids throughout November and December.
As Dzung, the representative of the Interdisciplinary Inspection Team, explained that Vietnam has banned the Protestant Christian faith and seeks to expel those who refuse to renounce their faith in Jesus. In 2018, more than 100 believers were expelled from Yen Bai province and Lao Cai province.
"Due to its ethnic background and high percentage of practicing Christians, Vietnam’s Hmong community is often targeted and harassed by both the government and neighboring communities," wrote ICC’s Regional Manager Gina Goh.
"In a Communist country where Christianity is often seen as unpatriotic or a threat to the regime, Hmong Christians constantly face discrimination, harassment, land grabs, torture, and imprisonment."
ICC has warned that the persecution of Hmong Christians is expected to continue in 2019.
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Egypt Opens Largest Church for Coptic Christians in the Middle East
Christians in Egypt celebrated Christmas with the dedication of the largest church for Coptic Christians in the Middle East.
Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Jan. 7, and Christians marked the day with the Nativity of the Christ Cathedral.
The building is a gift to the Church from President el-Sisi, who approved the cathedral in 2017, saying the church should be "a message of peace and love to the world." He also attended the Christmas celebration and dedication.
"We are one and we will continue to be one," he said at the dedication.
"This moment is very important in our history."
Church leaders are also calling the church a "historic" event.
"I think what we have seen here is historic," said Joel Rosenberg. "I really think it's a game changer that a Sunni Arab Muslim President of the world's largest Arab country has built a church, the largest in the Middle East and given it as a gift to the Christians of Egypt.
"We've never seen anything like it in history. And I think President Sisi is sending a message not just to his own people but to all Muslims that Muslims and Christians can live together in coexistence. That's an extraordinary development."
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YouVersion Bible App Rings in the New Year with Whopping 1 Million New Subscribers
The popular YouVersion Bible app says their Bible plans garnered more than 1 million new subscriptions at the start of the New Year.
The company says the uptick of subscribers on Jan. 1 represents a 62 percent increase from last year.
YouVersion plans allow users to pair daily passages from the Bible with audio, video or devotional content.
Bobby Gruenewald, YouVersion's founder, explained it's all part of the company's plan to make it easier for users to get into the Word of God.
"We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make it easier for our community to do what they say they want to do, which is read the Bible more," Gruenewald said.
"Over the years, we've added several features focused on developing a habit of reading or listening to the Bible every day, and we're encouraged to see Bible engagement numbers continue to increase year after year."
There are currently 13,000 plans available in more than 50 languages designed to help guide people in reading through the Bible over the course of 90 days, six months, or a year.
"Starting a Bible Plan is one of the best ways to build a discipline of daily Bible reading within the app," Gruenewald told The Christian Post.
"Our hope is that by leveraging all the features offered in the Bible App, [users] develop a love for engaging with the Bible daily so they can begin to recognize God's presence in their everyday lives," he said.
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