Does a strong faith in God lead to a prosperous life filled with health and wealth? Since the 1950’s, several Pentecostal and charismatic preachers have been arguing that followers of Jesus should be rich and successful. Oftentimes, they have put their teachings into practice by possessing expensive jet planes and huge mansions.
In this Holy Hangout I talk with design student and Vineyarder Friederike Berghauer from Germany and former Vineyard pastor and blogger Joshua Hopping from the United States. We discuss what prosperity really is, the historical roots to why “Health and Wealth” teaching originated, why it’s popular in Latin America and Africa, Biblical texts that challenge traditional prosperity teaching and the role of contentment and suffering in a Christian’s life.
If you have a suggestion on a topic for a future Hangout and/or want to join, just contact me!
How was Christian community of goods practically organized in the time of the Bible and how should it be organized today?
There are many myths and misconceptions about the apostolic church in Jerusalem and its community of goods. I’ve encountered people who think that all the disciples became homeless and unemployed as “those who owned land or houses sold them” (Acts 4:34), so that community of goods was more about having nothing in common rather than everything in common. In reality, however, they bought new houses after the resources were redistributed equally (8:3). Likewise, they probably bought new land and/or got other sources of income than agriculture.
The reason for doing this was most likely the fact that some people lived in quite luxurious homes while others were living in poor homes or even on the street. Selling everything and collecting the money in one pile under the oversight of the apostles made it possible for the church to provide a descent living for everybody, so that “there were no needy persons among them.” (4:34).
Now, we must remember that in the time of the New Testament there were no bank accounts. Everyone got paid in cash when they received their salary. This meant that even after the initial Great Selling of Everything, Christians in Jerusalem would receive their income individually (and most women, children and disabled people would not have any income at all). (more…)
I recorded some songs today with my dear friend Andreas Lundström. Here’s one of them, inspired by Simon Ådahl:
You made your decision to get on your knees and pray
You got no ambition, free from addiction to wealth and fame
You are chosen by He who died; so beloved.
Now get up, rise and shine,
’cause it’s time to walk with God
You have authority, nothing’s impossible,
No demon is too strong and no mountain’s immovable
Every gift that you need and require, you got it all
In the midst of darkness and deception
You got the power to destroy the scorpions
And you won’t fail ’cause you walk with God
You walk with God
You walk with God (more…)
Rachel Held Evans nails it when it comes to describing the incompatibility of the Gospel and Donald Trump’s racist message. The greedy white supremacist has tweeted lies describing black people as inherently violent and has said that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”. Many of the Afro-Americans and Mexicans that he attacks with his KKK-rhetoric are Christians, mind you. Yet suddenly he gets to speak at the Christian Liberty University and evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed him. Held Evans writes:
You would think it would be a hard sell given the fact that the real estate mogul and reality star has boasted about his extramarital affairs, profited off casinos and strip clubs, said he doesn’t need to ask God for forgiveness, called for targeting innocent civilians in war, mocked a reporter with a disability, threatened the religious liberty of minority groups in the U.S., and gained wide support among white nationalists for consistently lying about and demeaning blacks, Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and Syrian refugees. But polls show that despite all of this, Trump remains favored among evangelical voters.
Interestingly, only 5% of Republican pastors would vote for Trump, so there’s a gap here between the pew and the pulpit. Noting that, we still have to admit that there is a lot of racism among white evangelicals and so they like Trump not despite his racism but because of it. Held Evans points out that Liberty University did oppose racial integration in the past and fellow MennoNerd Ebony spoke about the evangelical racism in the US a few months ago:
So I was listening to the Woodland Hills Podcast the other day where pastor Greg Boyd was speaking on spiritual warfare and delivering demonized people, and he shared a testimony about an exorcism that blew me away. “Wow”, I thought, “that was an awesome testimony!”
I asked him on Twitter if I could share that piece of the sermon on my YouTube channel to which he kindly responded “No problem Micael. We own NOTHING. So give away freely!!”
After discussing how he sometimes is ridiculed for taking the existence of satan seriously, even though it makes no sense why a Christian shouldn’t acknowledge the existence of satan and demons, Boyd shares how two girls once manifested demonic activity after he had rebuked satan at a church meeting. One of them grabbed him with surprising strength, rolled her left eye counter-clockwise three times and tossed him away from her. Thankfully, both of the girls were delivered and joined the church.
Also, check out Boyd’s excellent post on the existence of a spiritual realm.
Sermon notes on John 8:1-11.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. (Jn 8:1-6)
“Well, kill her of course” would be a proper Phariseic response to this question. Many witnesses had seen her commit this sin, and the Old Testament punishment for adultery is death (Lev 20:10). There is obviously a gender-based injustice here since only the woman is supposed to be punished, while the man she had sex with is nowhere to be seen, but many Pharisees would not care so much about that.
Jesus’ response, though, is revolutionary and unexpected:
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (Jn 8:6-11)
Here’s a video where I explain why I’m a vegetarian and why all Western Christians should be vegetarians:
Imagine if all fish in the world became extremely poisonous. Imagine that you would die from eating just a tiny piece of fish meat. Would you still eat fish and give fish to your children, pointing to the fact that Jesus and the disciples ate fish in John 21? Perhaps you would refer to Mk 16:18 and say that no poison can harm you, but to use that as a proof text for consciously putting your life in danger every other day sounds a lot like testing God as Jesus described it in Mt 4. One is then basically a snake handler.
So if we’re being honest, we would avoid fish even though Jesus ate it, because the current situation has made that ingredient more dangerous compared to His time. In a similar fashion, most of us don’t eat locusts like John the Baptist did, not because it’s dangerous but simply because it’s not part of our culture.
Now, what if I told you that meat is indeed very dangerous today, not just for you but for millions of poor people? I’ve written about this before: meat is one of the most environmentally hazardous ingredients in the world. The meat and dairy industry produces 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and processed meat like bacon causes cancer. (more…)
Most believers are aware of that the Bible says that we are citizens in Heaven (Phil 3:20) as well as foreigners and strangers on the earth (Hebrews 11:13). But did you know that it also says that we are refugees?
“we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.” – Hebr 6:18
The Greek word for “fled” is kataphygontes, which more explicitely means “having fled for refuge”. All Christians have fled from death, evil and sin and entered the safe refuge of the Lord.
This is also expressed earlier in the same letter: (more…)
“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” – 1 Jn 5:21
Reading the prophetic books of the Old Testament for the first time, I was almost a bit annoyed by the constant warnings against idolatry. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea and others constantly bring up how bad idolatry is and how silly idol-worshippers are, bowing down for statues they themselves have made.
I was like, yeah yeah, I get it. Idols are bad, move on please. I thought that not worshipping other gods than God was lesson one of Christianity, the most fundamental ethic of them all, and so constantly repeating it throughout Scripture felt unnecessary. In my view it was as if the driving instructor would constantly remind you to sit behind the wheel when driving an electric car.
Others must have felt the same way, because when the topic of idolatry came up in my church, people started to forcingly convince themselves that they were idolaters somehow. We’ve all stolen, been jealous or murdered sometime, at least if you define the latter as being angry which Jesus seems to do in Mt 5, and so to make sure that idolatry wasn’t something we could just say that we happily avoid, our youth pastor told us that an idol is “everything that you put higher than God”. It could be money, sex, power or Pokèmon. And you didn’t have to worship it, just immerse yourself into it. (more…)
Charismactivist apostle of love Heidi Baker recently visited Sid Roth’s show It’s Supernatural, where she shared testimonies about what God has done in her life and among the poor of Mozambique. The following testimony just gripped my heart, it can be heard from 11:30 onwards in the video:
Every Monday, in Mozambique, I visit my village. It’s just my local village, I like to keep it real – we have 3500 children in our school from there so I like to see their families. And I just sit and hold he poor, spending time loving them…
And on my way back from visiting a mama named Tina, I saw this little, old woman. And she was really poor, you know, her clothes were shredded, and a strange thing was that she was sitting in the sun. And I thought: “Why is this woman sitting in the sun in Mozambique?” It’s hot! At least she should be in the shade.
And I said “What’s your name?” in our local dialect. And she answered me back and said: “I have no name.” And I was undone by that. I thought, how can anyone on earth not be given a name? (more…)
Yesterday my friend Andreas and myself made a video where we go through seven good arguments for God’s existence. They are as follows:
1. The universe was created.
2. There is something rather than nothing.
3. The universe is fine-tuned for life.
4. Morality is objective and not just subjective.
5. There are thousands of scientifically verified miracles.
6. Jesus was awesome and trusted by smart people.
7. Ask God to reveal Himself – you won’t be disappointed.
If you have half an hour, I really recommend you to watch the video. We had a fun time making it! Also, check out the apologetics page on this site for more resources.
For seven years, I have been arguing that signs and wonders should be combined with peace and justice and that the charismatic and activist streams of Christianity should unite. Early on I discovered Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice (PCPJ), and became a joyful member. PCPJ stands for what I stand for, and so it was easy for me to stand with them and promote their website on my website.
Recently, Brian Pipkin from PCPJ contacted me and asked me if I could help them create content for the PCPJ website and Facebook page. Of course I said yes! This is a dream coming true for me, I get to participate in an organization that I love, using gifts that God really has equipped me with.
Please check out the existing articles at the PCPJ website, including this political Christmas reflection by Craig Keener, author of Miracles, and this piece by Eric Gaboruel on Pentecostal veganism. And don’t forget to like the Facebook page and join the Facebook group if your a facebooker.
Without spoiling anything, I can assure you that many more interesting articles will show up on the website. If you like the Holy Spirit and activism and wants to contribute somehow as well, just tell me!
So it’s no secret that several American prosperity preachers are ridiculously rich. When I’m out speaking about the importance of combining signs and wonders with simplicity and community of goods, my favourite bad example is charismatic Word of Faith leader Kenneth Copeland, who owns a mansion worth six million dollars, two private jets and his own airport, the Kenneth Copeland Airport, where he keeps his jets close to his million-dollar mansion. Most of his money is from ordinary people, who donate thinking that they’re doing something good for God’s Kingdom and that God will bless them with riches as well.
In a recent video, Copeland and Jesse Duplantis give some horrible reasons for why they “need” their luxurious jet planes: they need to stand up and pray, avoid people who want them to pray for them and who are filled with demons, sleep on the plane and travel long distances across America basically every single day. Now, you can stand up and pray on a commercial airline, or sit doing it; ministering to people is obviously a good thing and if you tired just tell them; and rather than spending millions of dollars on these pieces of luxury, I think it would be healthy for these men to travel less and sleep in normal beds more often.
Not only are private jets incredibly expensive when you buy them, but as J. Lee Grady has pointed out, maintenance costs about four million dollars per year, and a flight costs about 100 times more compared to using a normal plane. Flying is very harmful to the environment, and that harm increases enormously when using a private jet instead of a plane that many people fit into; just like buses are better for God’s creation than cars.
I’ve been enjoying Samaa Habib’s autobiographical book Face to Face with Jesus as I did research for my upcoming book Charismactivism last month. Samaa is from a Muslim country that used to be ruled by Soviet and that has experienced some horrible civil wars, and she opened her heart to the Gospel as a Christian ministry showed the Jesus film to the war torn public. She was amazed and told her father: ”He cannot be just a prophet, he must be more than that! He is alive. Mohammad’s skeleton is still buried in Mecca. Jesus is my super hero!” Her father didn’t agree of course, but tolerated the young girl’s enthusiasm.
She eventually went to a church service and gave her life completely to the Lord together with two of her sisters. Now, her father was enraged. After she had confessed that she will not live without Jesus, he abused and tortured her, strangling her until she fainted. She later escaped her family’s house through a window and fled to the church.
As time went by, more people in Samaa’s family were saved. Her mother was healed from a heart problem and encountered Jesus in a dream. This made the father tolerate Christianity a bit more, even if he still was in severe disagreement.
One day as Samaa was worshipping in church, a bomb exploded right next to her and she died instantly. She saw Heaven and Jesus, and He said that she could either be with Him or return to earth to lead more people to Him. She chose the latter, and woke up blind and deformed as she was taken to hospital. Her brain was visible and her appearance was a mess. (more…)
2015 was a year I had been looking forward to. It was the year when the new, global goals of sustainable development would be established, and when the extremely important climate summit in Paris hopefully would manage the greenhouse gas threat. It was going to be a global year, and I decided to focus on simplicity, together with Bible reading and miracles, promoting community life and the value of equality.
I had not foreseen that refugees would be in focus though. Here in Sweden we had an election in 2014, and the racist party Sweden Democrats had a breakthrough with much Christian support, which made me write about the importance of welcoming and blessing back then. However, as most of you know, migration became a hot topic as more refugees than expected entered Europe. This gave rise to yet another horrible wave of xenophobia. Meanwhile, Australia increased their fight against refugees and immigrants, and in the US we have a loud white supremacist called Donald Trump who constantly hits the headlines with his hatred towards Mexicans and Muslims.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to stand against this Anti-gospel of hatred and preach the peaceful, welcoming and loving Kingdom of God. We should also point to the real issues on the global scale; one of the greatest ironies of this year is that white xenophobic people have argues that their rich countries can’t afford immigration. Meanwhile, the world is destroyed by white consumption and greed, as we would need three planets if everybody lived like Europeans and five if we were all like Americans.