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Jesus Church: Selling Everything

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This was originally posted on Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.

In this third and final blog post of my Jesus Church series, I’d like to talk about money. Twice, John points out that the ‘Jesus Church’ had a central fund that Judas was responsible for (John 12:6, 13:29). The income that the church received, probably from donations (Luke 8:3), seems to have been pooled, and the surplus given to the poor.

This was an obvious practical expression of Jesus’ radical economic teachings.

“Blessed are you who are poor”, he said, “but woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:20, 24). It’s clear that Jesus didn’t want us to be rich.

This is also evident when he said that we should not store up treasures on earth:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).

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Trump, “Illegal” Immigrants and the Bible

Trump has said that refugees the US is receiving legally are “illegal immigrants”. He’s not the only one misusing the term though, I can’t count how many times American Christians have told me that the biblical commands to welcome and care for the stranger don’t apply to “illegal immigrants”. It’s time to stop using those words and treat everyone equally as human beings created in the image of God.

 

A Church Without Evangelism isn’t a Church

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Pancake Evangelism in Uppsala, Sweden

Why does God not take us to Heaven immediately after we’re born again? I was pondering this years ago, and the only reasonable answer I could come up with was: to help others being born again.

We can, and will, worship in Heaven. We can hang around, have a good time, and organize Marquee festivals in Heaven. But we can’t invite others to Heaven when we’re well there.

This is why the Great Commission to make new disciples (Mt 28:18-20) is not just a mission, it is the mission and the primary reason why we even have church.

This is why we need to advertise and tell people about our meetings and events. We need to evangelise and share our testimonies to people we encounter. We need to be present in the public sphere and show an alternative to the consumerism, patriotism and false religions that are already being proclaimed out there. (more…)

Jesus Church: All Disciples Should Evangelise

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Originally posted at Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.

In my last blog post, I explored the fellowship of Jesus and His disciples in the gospels, treating it as church. This has big implications.

Jesus managed to pastor his church without a church building. Most of the sermons he held weren’t even indoors. He would preach from the top of a mountain, in a field, at the temple courts or in a boat. His preaching was directed at people who didn’t follow Him just as much as to those who already were His disciples. In fact, when He talked to the disciples, He engaged in dialogue, listening to their views and responding with divine insight.

In Jesus’ church, it was impossible to be a disciple without interacting with non-believers almost daily. Jesus was charismatic in the dual sense of the word, attracting large crowds wherever he went. There were often discussions and debates with those who disagreed. On top of that, Jesus commanded:

Go… to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:6-8)

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Jesus Church: Jesus as Pastor

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Originally posted at Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.

Most people seem to think that the Christian church was born on Pentecost day in Jerusalem, as described in the book of Acts. Ten days after Jesus had risen to Heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out on over a hundred disciples and they started to speak new languages (Acts 2:1-4). After Peter had powerfully preached the Gospel, 3,000 were saved and baptised and suddenly there was a church in Jerusalem, in which everyone had everything in common, miracles abounded and people were converted daily (Acts 2:42-47).

But if this was the birth of the church, what should we call the community Jesus had with his disciples in the Gospels? Was it some sort of preparation for the real stuff, a “church pre-school”? Admittedly, it isn’t spelt out to be a church in the Scriptures, but what else could it be?

Think about it, what’s the difference between the discipleship community in the Gospels and the church of Acts? The discipleship community also preached the gospel (Matt 11:1), healed the sick (Luke 10:9) and shared money (John 13:29). They baptised new believers (John 4:2), worshipped together (Mark 14:26) and shared the bread and wine (Mark 14:22-24). (more…)

Trump or Jesus: We Do Have to Choose

Originally posted at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice.

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America’s new President is controversial, to say the least. Saying outrageous things concerning women or ethnic minorities to gain massive media attention and popularity, just to then lie about the statements ever being made, sounds like an absurd way to become the most powerful person in the world. But it tragically seems quite effective.

Hillary Clinton was also criticized for being unreliable when it comes to security and honesty, and so during the election, America found itself in a bizarre situation where most people didn’t really want any of the candidates to become President. It was an election about who you dislike the least rather than who you like the most. When people want a leader with dignity, morals and faithfulness, turning to politicians seems to guarantee a letdown.

Jesus was skeptical to the political way of leadership. He said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). At one point, the crowds that followed him wanted to crown him as king after he had done a miracle, at which point Jesus mysteriously disappeared like Batman (John 6:14-15). (more…)

Inspired to Inspire

Originally posted at christiancommunity.co.uk.

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As I prepared for my training year, I was getting ready to sit back and learn. My primary purpose for doing it was to experience community life, so as I envisioned the year I saw myself sitting on a cosy sofa with a warm cup of tea, writing a book about community as children were playing on the living room floor. This would stand in contrast to the pretty hectic life I had been leading in Sweden with loads of responsibilities and a tight schedule.

However, I’ve been very active during my training year as well. One of the first things I did was to start a Spiritual Q&A apologetics class to equip the Kettering Jesus Fellowship in defending the faith, understanding and responding to other worldviews as well as dealing with our own doubts and questions. I’ve had the honour to lead various meetings, I’ve participated in street evangelism on Saturdays and I’ve volunteered at the Creativity Department at the Jesus Army’s central offices in order to contribute with inspiration and media.

If I had done my training year five years ago, which was my original plan, I would definitively have had another experience. I would have not been as equipped to teach, preach and contribute with writing. On the contrary, my 20-year-old self would be in much more need of input and training than what I need now. (more…)

Jesus Isn’t Post-Truth

Originally posted on Jesus Army’s website.

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Recently Oxford Dictionary announced that the word of the year is “post-truth”. It’s an adjective used when describing how facts and truth take a backseat position in favour of emotions and personal opinion.

During just the last six months people have been increasingly talking about “post-truth politics” and a “post-truth world” as several politicians in the UK and the US have blatantly lied and ignored facts, quoting their own feelings or the feelings of their supporters as sufficient evidence for their positions.

An example of this was when American politician Newt Gingrich argued that the crime level in the US has gone up because “the average American… does not think crime is down”. When challenged by a reporter who quoted FBI statistics that showed the opposite, he simply responded “That’s your view”.

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Modern Civilisation is Collapsing – What to Do?

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It probably won’t look as cool as this, but the Great Collapse will still be very damaging

All complex civilisations in human history have eventually collapsed. As the complexity of the Babylonian, Roman and Maya empires increased, their administration eventually became to costly and inflexible, leaving the whole system vulnerable to any famine, war or social uprising that would tear it totally apart. The inevitable collapse were seldom instantaneous, it could take decades or even centuries. What it always produced however was decreased complexity with more decentralised governance, more poverty, rural living and a smaller population.

I am fully convinced that if Jesus doesn’t return to end history soon, we will see modern civilisation collapsing. With modern civilisation I refer to the political and economic structure that is based in the “Western”, white part of the world but that influences all nations of the earth and use their resources. It is totally impossible for its complexity to remain on this level or even higher; sooner or later most of our societies will be thrown back to pre-industrial times, and millions will die.

This gloomy prediction of course contradict the myth of eternal Progress that has been a dominant paradigm in the West. Just like in the early days of the Roman empire, increased wealth, health, education and technology made people believe that the future will be eternally bright, everything will get better and more efficient.

This is very different from a Biblical worldview which predicts that the sinfulness of man will constantly follow and eventually consume us. The book of Revelation talks about how the pseudo-glorious city of Babylon, representing power, wealth and civilisation, will collapse: (more…)

What the Arctic Tells us about Following Jesus

Originally posted at Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.

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The Arctic is alarmingly warm this year, in fact, 20 degrees hotter than usual. What scientists have been warning us against for decades is becoming reality. If nothing is done, we might see an enormous climate catastrophe that would kill and displace hundreds of millions.

The vast majority of scientists have also been telling us for years that we do far too little to stop climate change. Even if the relatively ambitious Paris Climate Accord is implemented by all countries, it will not be enough. And the outcome of the American election puts into question whether the Accord even will be implemented.

The main root cause of these problems is an industrially driven economic growth that is not restricted to areas that seem necessary and beneficial like better healthcare and education. The astonishingly high consumption level that has driven climate change for decades deals a lot with fashion, technology, entertainment and luxury products that we, if we’re honest with ourselves, simply don’t need. (more…)

Obeying Jesus Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

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I was talking to a church leader the other day about why they quit doing public evangelism, which reached tens of thousands of people and led many to the Lord and made many join the church. The main reason was that they had even higher expectations on the fruits the street evangelism would bring, and there was even a demanding pressure centrally from the denomination that basically was never satisfied. 25 years of this created a weariness and bitterness which in turned spawned a backlash, making the church quit public evangelism altogether.

The church leader said to me that there are people in the congregation who used to be very skilled in leading people to Christ but that now want nothing to do with street evangelism. They’ll still share the Gospel if they get the opportunity, but they hardly ever get the opportunity. Their anxiety caused by not meeting expectations was cured by lowering expectations to almost zero, and so many of them blamed street evangelism for not being fruitful enough while living a life that from an evangelistic standpoint is close to fruitless.

The emotional pain from almost being forced to share the Gospel with promises for a revival that never came is strong, and understandable. But it’s not a reason for letting people go to hell. As strong as our emotional dislike for an action may be, if the Bible commands it we should do it. As we recognise this and pray for strength to do it, God can heal our emotional scars. (more…)

Bill Johnson’s Support for Trump Doesn’t Make Any Sense

Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson has written about why he thinks a Bible-believing Christian should support President-elect Donald Trump. He fails miserably. In this video I go through his list of things that he has “found” in the Bible that would defend the goodness of a Trump presidency, and points out why Johnson has an obvious bias for Trump that makes him twist the Scriptures like crazy. I deeply respect him and his charismatic ministry, but his political views are astonishingly off.

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Why Won’t Most Americans Care About The Rest of the World?

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Trump has won the election, which is nothing less than a disaster for the world. He doesn’t care about climate change and his policies will most likely kill millions of people around the world due to climate inaction. He is anti-immigration and wants to block out people fleeing from poverty and war, which might very well kill many of them too. And his willingness to engage in nuclear war is unprecedented, if his irrational rage makes him go crazy on Twitter, what will he do when he has nuclear launch codes at his disposal?

It’s not a mystery why he’s popular though. The American working class and rural population know that they have been screwed by the urban elite – poor Americans have almost seen nothing of the economic growth of the last decades. Of course, somebody who has benefited from that growth in a very unethical fashion is Trump himself.But people tend to see him as a successful businessman (which he’s not) who can save the American economy (which he won’t) by protectionism and putting America first, making it “great again”.

The fact that his policies are tremendously bad for the rest of the world don’t matter too much to them because it’s America that’s going to be great, not necessarily Mozambique or India. They could say things like climate change being a hoax (“invented by the Chinese” as Trump has claimed) or that Syrian refugees are terrorists. What this shows is not just that they haven’t taken the time to listen to those in the majority world who are already suffering from climate change or those fleeing from war, but also a lack of empathy to these people. (more…)

Solving Biblical Contradictions

When people think about the Bible they often think about contradictions. But how can we be sure that the Bible really contradicts itself rather than that’s is we who do not fully understand it? This lecture is part of the Spiritual Q&A apologetics series I hold at Holy Treasure in Kettering, UK.

Why God Didn’t Command Genocide

The book of Joshua describes how the Israelites on God’s command invaded the land of Canaan and killed all who stood in their way. Over and over we read how they left “no survivors” (Josh 10:28, 30, 33). To modern ears, this clearly sounds like a genocide. Yet, Scripture actually tells us that this wasn’t the case: there were survivors!

I talk about this in the video above. In response to the accusation that the God of the Bible commands genocide, apologists like Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan have given a renewed focus to the hyperbole theory for being a good, evangelical take on this problem. They even wrote a book about this together, suitably titled Did God Really Commande Genocide? Flannagan writes on his blog:

Joshua affirms he exterminated all the Canaanites in this region. Repeatedly it states that Joshua left “no survivors” and “destroyed everything that breathed” in “the entire land”, “put all the inhabitants to the sword”. Alongside these general claims the text identifies several specific places and cities where Joshua exterminated everyone and left no survivors. These include Hebron (Josh. 10:40), Debir (Josh. 10:38), the hill country and the Negev and the western foothills (Josh. 10:40). In the first chapter of Judges, however, we are told that the Canaanites lived in the Negev (1:9), in the hill country (Judg. 1:9), in Debir (Judg. 1:11), in Hebron (Judg. 1:10) and in the western foothills (Judg. 1:9). Moreover, they did so in such numbers and strength that they had to be driven out by force. These are the same cities that Joshua 10 tells us Joshua had annihilated and left no survivors in.

This is best explained by “no survivors” and “kill all of them” were hyperbolic rhetoric popular at this time. Flannagan adds: (more…)