The problem of evil, or the problem of suffering, has never been much of a problem for me. Regarded as one of the chief obstacles to the Christian faith, I have never been confounded by the existence of evil and suffering in the world. Being an atheist before I was saved, I found that Christianity provides a solution to evil and suffering whereas atheism just accepts suffering and is extremely pessimistic regarding the fate of the human race; and, I later realised, cannot justify why evil and good really would exist objectively speaking.
But just because I personally have never been troubled by the problem, I shouldn’t as a pastor and apologist disregard those who struggle with it. When I’m out evangelising it is often asked why a good and omnipotent God would allow His creatures to suffer, and among many Christians as well this casts doubt on whether He really is good in three sense we understand it or if He’s really all-powerful.
Many have themselves experienced suffering, loss and injustice and so for them it is an emotional problem rather than an intellectual one. For them, many arguments fall short even if they’re good. Emotional pain requires love, support and comfort rather than mere answers. If my girlfriend breaks up with me and I weepingly ask “Why?!”, my friend Mark could provide me with all the reasons she rejected me, but even if they’re accurate it doesn’t follow that I would be comforted by that. I might get even more upset.
That being said, in this lecture I provide seven reasons why I don’t find the problem of evil and suffering as an intellectually challenging one. It’s recorded at our first “Spiritual Q&A” apologetics class that I hold here at Holy Treasure in Kettering every Monday. Have a look and tell me what you think in the comments!
My friend Mikael Skogsén is a pastor with a strong prophetic gift who regularly updates his Facebook with testimonies about words of knowledge, healings and salvations that happen in his everyday life. I got his permission to share one of the testimonies, which I did yesterday on my Swedish blog. It’s an amazing story about how he and his friend were eating on a restaurant, when suddenly Mikael starts prophesying about the waiter’s fiancee in Germany and proclaimed healing in his aching back. The man was of course eventually saved.
Now, some people started to suspect and accuse Mikael of using the power of psychic spirits, similar to occultists in Asia, which would produce apparent healings that eventually result in depression and even worse ailments. Now, I’ve grown accustomed to heresy hunters, people who spend too much time on the Internet arguing that millions of charismatic Christians are possessed by Kundalini spirits and that influential Pentecostal leaders like Bill Johnson are false prophets. I’ve argued against their bad arguments time and again. That’s not new. What really bothers me is that it seems that many of these people automatically assume that if a Christian experiences supernatural stuff, it must be demons.
See, when heresy hunters attack Bill Johnson or Todd Bentley they at least have a lot of resources online to base their judgment on (even if they all-too-often aren’t doing much research). These are famous pastors whose theology and practice have been publicly debated. But Mikael Skogsén isn’t famous. The people who commented on my post hadn’t even heard of him before. And yet, the knee-jerk reaction is that his supernatural ministry is demonic. (more…)
Usually when churches choose to stop doing Biblical things they don’t want to admit that the reason behind it is laziness, apostasy or sin. Rather, they like to blame the Biblical thing itself for not being “effective” enough, or they might claim that it’s just a calling for some to do on their own, or that say that culture has changed and that modern or young people aren’t interested in these particular Biblical things, so that’s why we shouldn’t do them.
I joked with these three excuses in my recent sketch about why churches don’t evangelise. In this post I would like to focus on the “modern/young people want something different” argument. It’s often used as an evangelistic argument: in order to win or keep people we need to change. Which is why it’s so absurd when it’s arguing against evangelism.
But whatever Biblical thing you argue against, it becomes nonsensical to use this argument. You need to either argue that churches shouldn’t follow the Bible, or that the Bible actually says something different from what it appears to say. What modern or young people think doesn’t matter at all. If doing Biblical things put them off, so be it. We must obey God rather than human beings (Acts 5:29), and the Bible is a better source to what God wants than Millennials. (more…)
Today on the MennoNerd vlog I talk about how awesome it is that the Jesus Army organises their local congregations around their intentional communities, where people live, eat and sleep every day, rather than around unbiblical church buildings that stand empty most of the time:
This is just one of many things that make the Jesus Army different from many other churches. The church owned businesses where everyone receive the same wage, the support for celibates, the emphasis on covenant and unity and the loud and proud emphasis on Jesus is quite extraordinary. Where does this church come from and what does its history look like? Those were the questions me and Sarah brought to Mike Farrant, who lives with me at the Holy Treasure community in Kettering, in a recent episode of our Swedish podcast “Jesus People”:
Mike shared how it all began when an outpouring of the Holy Spirit hit a Baptist chapel in the small town of Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire, which made hundreds of student, hippies, drug addicts, businessmen and many other sorts of people join the church. They soon started to practice community of goods like in the book of Acts and changed name to Jesus Fellowship Church. Mike has been living in community for 41 years and obviously knows a lot about both its advantages and challenges.
My documentary about community of goods at the Jesus Army now has over 750 views on YouTube, and I’ve received lots of positive feedback not the least from fellow Jesus people folks. Recently I had the opportunity to contribute to Jesus Army’s Colourful Church blog, writing about how the film was made. Here’s an excerpt:
My plan was not to make a second trip, but to only use the material I recorded in 2014. And that could certainly have been the case, the material was, as mentioned, quite extensive. But life went on, half a year passed without me starting the editing process. I only used the material once when I made a clip for my YouTube channel Holy Spirit Activism in which Huw describes how the Jesus Fellowship started to practice community. It was mixed with Kalimba by Mr Scruff, which was simply included as sample music on my laptop. The clip turned out to be very good and is actually included in its totally in the documentary (save the introduction I recorded in my Swedish bedroom).
But again, I didn’t find time to start with the actual documentary. Then suddenly, in January 2015, Holy Spirit inspiration hit me. For some reason I just wanted to make documentary and nothing else, and so I sat for about ten hours and edited in Windows Movie Maker, which was the only editing software I had. I delayed my school work just to edit this film. And during that session I produced what’s pretty much still the first 14 minutes of the film. (more…)
Evangelism is super important; without it, churches go extinct and people go to hell. Yet, evangelism seem to constantly be (apart from community of goods) the first thing churches drop when they find following Jesus to uncomfortable. It is as if evangelism always hangs lose, even though churches commit suicide if they don’t do it.
I’ve been talking to quite a lot of church leaders about why their congregations never evangelise and they typically give me three different answers. Three brilliant answers. These arguments are so perfect and irrefutable that they completely stun those who are confronted with them, as I show in this comedy sketch:
Of course, I’m joking. These arguments are horribly bad. But there’s one reason for not evangelising that I find acceptable, which I give towards the end of the video. You won’t be able to guess what it is.
Imagine a church that never prays. No Sunday service or other kind of church meeting include prayer, and when asked about it the church leaders say: “Well, people are free to pray when they’re at home, but we don’t believe that everyone are called to be ‘prayer warriors’.” Would you view such a church as healthy or functioning?
Or imagine a church that never reads the Bible. Its leaders say “Well, we once did that but we didn’t get much out of it, we weren’t actually living biblically just because we read the Bible.” Would you think that such a practice and explanation were acceptable?
See, this is how millions of churches treat evangelism. Rather than doing it officially as a church on public places, it is delegated to church members’ private initiatives – which usually are very rare. Some churches say that they tried street evangelism and it “didn’t work”, so now they want to encourage “relational evangelism” by simply exhorting their members to tell people about Jesus and offer no training whatsoever to teach them how to do so.
This is scandalous and an abomination to the Lord. There is nothing He wants individual Christians to do that He doesn’t want the whole church as a body to do. And not only are churches that never evangelise disobeying His command to preach the Gospel to all nations, they’re also committing suicide. (more…)
Guest post by Taruna Rettinger
Blessed are the poor and blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are the poor
Why do you want richness?
Blessed are the poor
Why do you keep slaves for your comfort?
Blessed are the poor
Why do you seek wealth on earth?
Blessed are the poor in spirit
But you want to feel rich
Blessed are the poor in spirit
But you want to be served by others
Blessed are the poor in spirit
But you want wealth here and now
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
So feel your poverty in spirit and cry for Heaven
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”
So strive for poverty and long to live with God
When I and Sarah were evangelising in the Swedish town of Åsele over a month ago, my team leader was Steffen Holm from Denmark. A radical evangelist, he is involved with The Last Reformation and has prayed for thousands of people on the streets. As we were evangelising he often shared his own testimony of how he was 100 % handicapped and bound to a wheelchair, but God healed him. He even had proof constantly with him in form of a parking certificate for handicapped people. I asked him to share his testimony to my camera, which he kindly did:
Article written for New Creation Christian Community, Jesus Army’s community organisation.
I’ve never viewed Pentecost as a mistake.
The first time I read the remarkable account in Acts 2 of how the Holy Spirit filled Jesus’ disciples with miraculous power so that they could speak other languages; how Peter’s passionate sermon resulted in 3,000 receiving Jesus; how all the disciples then had everything in common so that nobody had to be poor – I knew that this was good. In fact, it was awesome. Luke’s point isn’t that this is a tragic event that shouldn’t be repeated, he’s describing the best church ever!
I realised that a lot of miracles are better than a few miracles, that a lot of saved people are better than a few saved people, and that no economic inequality is better than existing economic inequality. I realised that if I were to claim that we don’t “need to” make our churches look like Jerusalem, I would in fact be arguing that our churches don’t need to be as good as they should.
It would be like saying that a fire extinguisher doesn’t need to extinguish fire, or that a surgeon doesn’t need to save the lives of the patients he or she is caring for. (more…)
So there are a lot of Americans who have started to support Trump the last couple of months, not because they are so enthusiastic for him as such but because he is the only alternative to Hillary Clinton. Stephen Colbert went to the Republican National Convention and asked people how many of them have supported Trump from the beginning and they were very few – lots of Republicans wanted to see another candidate. Evangelical leader Wayne Grudem has made an effort to portray a vote for Trump as a “morally good” choice, describing the billionaire’s scandalous rhetoric and lies as “flaws” that’ll hopefully go away, but it’s painfully obvious that he would have preferred to have another Republican candidate.
Then there are of course the enthusiastic Trump supporters who sincerely agree with him. They can’t find the racism in falsely claiming that African Americans commit almost all violent crime or in treating Muslims as Nazi Germany treated Jews in the 1930’s, because that’s their actual opinion. They’ll constantly point out the misbehaviour and errant views of Clinton, and for them her lies and changed opinions are way worse than Trump’s lies and changed opinions.
But here’s why even they shouldn’t vote for Trump. Here’s why a person who agrees with every word the Donald utters still shouldn’t try to elect him to the White House. He’s totally unpredictable. You have no idea that what he says corresponds in any way to what he wants to or will do as President. (more…)
During my training year at the Jesus Army I will have the honour of contributing to some of their blogs. Yesterday my first entry on their visionary Forward blog was published. Here’s an excerpt:
Jesus said: “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” (Matthew 10:27). The original apostolic church in Jerusalem didn’t just experience lots of miracles and have community of goods, they were daily in the temple courts telling people “all about this new life” (Acts 5:20).
Basically, they were unable to shut up! “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (5:42). When they were persecuted, they prayed and were “filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31). (more…)
We who are a part of the MennoNerd vlog have been talking about welcoming children into the Kingdom recently, and that reminded me of a clip from Iris Global where Heidi Baker interviews some of the children at Village of Joy in Pemba. It turns out that these kids have prayed for lame and blind people who have been healed. A pretty good Sunday school, in my holy opinion.
Watch the whole Iris Global clip here:
As a passionate advocate for community of goods, I often get the question whether every Christian “has to” have everything in common, if it’s a universal commandment or a calling for some. Most Christians seem to assume that’s the latter is true and get upset if I were to disagree. But in this video I’d like to challenge their conclusion, which I suspect that they have reached to quickly. There are three major problems with the idea that community of goods is just for some that need to be adressed:
- The Biblical problem: If it’s just for some, why is it portrayed as a universal commandment in Lk 12:33 and 14:33, and why did everyone do it in Jerusalem?
- The empirical problem: If individual economies and spontaneous giving are just as good as community of goods, why are the only churches who exterminate poverty within themselves churches that have community of goods?
- The demographical problem: Are all poor Christians called to community of goods?If not, why doesn’t God want to exterminate the poverty of all poor Christians? And if they are, don’t we need all rich Christians to join as well to finance it all?
For a more detailed description if these arguments, watch the video.