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Guest post by Stephen Waldron. Originally published on his blog at Theology Corner.
In some parts of the Bible, rich people are portrayed as the worst kind of criminals. They grind vulnerable people into dust, and they are the enemies of all that is good and holy. But wait…
Surely you’ve heard there are also good rich people in the Bible. So the problem of wealth must relate to some sort of internal sin, a “problem of the heart.”
It is true that one thing that Jesus points out is that people’s hearts are often in the wrong place. They are. But the point Jesus was making by linking hatred to murder and greed to wealth wasn’t “The tangible expression of wickedness isn’t all that bad after all.”
Rather, his point was that the moral sickness runs much deeper than his listeners might have suspected. The wealthy are not off the hook just yet. Their greed only compounds an already unjust situation. (more…)
Originally published at PCPJ.
I was holding my breath the other week when Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump – probably among the most unreliable political leaders of this age – were waging a war of words. Trump said that if Kim continues to threaten the United States they will be met with “fire and fury”, a statement he later said “wasn’t tough enough” (but what could be tougher?). The North Korean leadership almost immediately responded with threats of nuking the American colony of Guam, which likely would start the first nuclear war ever.
Thankfully, Kim later announced that he’s standing by, waiting for the next move by the “stupid yankees”. And I was able to breath again. But I’m taking short breaths, and pray that these madmen will come to their senses.
And then I stumble upon the comments by Southern Baptist Megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, who as this crisis was at its peak boldly proclaimed that “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un”. So how does Pastor Jeffress defend this claim?
“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”
Now, it’s important to understand that Jeffress isn’t claiming any personal revelation here: he claims that based on the Bible alone, specifically Romans 13, one can reach the conclusion that God wants Trump to kill Kim. But Romans 13 emphasizes that all governments have the same authority: (more…)
Originally published at PCPJ.
Quite a few media outlets have recently claimed that science has disproven the Bible. They point to a recent study showing that the DNA of modern Lebanese people match 90 % with the DNA of five Canaanites that died 3 700 tears ago. They then go on claiming that the Bible says that all the Canaanites were killed as Joshua and the Israelites conquered their land.
The titles of the articles show that their authors think that according to the Bible, Canaanites were “wiped out”. The Telegraph states “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out”. The Independent agrees: “Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon”. And the Daily Mail argues “Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible’s claim that the Canaanites were wiped out: Study says their genes live on in modern-day Lebanese people”
There’s only one problem. The Bible doesn’t say that the Canaanites were wiped out.
Judges, you know the book that comes right after Joshua, clearly states that there were “Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills” (Jud 1:9) and “Canaanites living in Hebron” (v. 10). Canaanites were around in Israel around the time of Solomon (1 Kings 9:16) and even in the time of Jesus (Matt 15:22). (more…)
In this recording from some months ago, I teach at Kettering Jesus Army on what Zacchaeus’ story in Luke 19 implies for us when it comes to encountering Jesus, the supernatural and generosity for the poor. I also share some testimonies about miracles in our lifetime.
Originally published at PCPJ.
The Jerusalem Project is based on the radical idea that biblical followers of Jesus should live like the followers of Jesus in the Bible. Specifically, we don’t think that the community of goods that Jesus practiced with his disciples (John 13:29) and that they then continued to practice in the apostolic church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45), was a mistake or has gone obsolete. On the contrary, since Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and the apostles are the foundation of the church (Eph 2:19), we believe we should live like them.
Most Christians would agree that the apostles has ultimate authority on who Jesus is, what he did for us and what he wants us to do for him. In fact, this authority is so great that the words they or their associates wrote down in letters and books are considered to be the Word of God!
That’s basically as much authority one can get.
But if they have this much authority, shouldn’t we view their lives and works as expressing God’s will as much as their words? Not that they would be sinless, but they had spend a lot of time with the sinless Son of God. He had taught them not only doctrines but practices, not just orthodoxy but orthopraxy. And so, they continued to heal the sick, preach the Gospel and have everything in common just as Jesus had trained them. (more…)
In Ephesians 4, Paul describes the five ministry gifts that will lead to the church:
But to each one of us was given grace according to the gift that Christ measured out … And he gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. They would equip the saints for the work of service to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to the measure of the adult population of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:7, 11-13).
In my Swedish house church, we once looked at this passage and realised that not only are the apostles and prophets extremely rare in the West, but when they still show up, we become terrified. Especially if they dare to call themselves apostle or prophet. This probably stems from the prevalence of cessationism in Protestantism, which elevated teaching as a major component of church life while prophecy and apostleship were viewed as obselete.
Today, most European churches have abandoned cessationism, and many realise that the Bible does not limit the title “apostle” to the twelve guys closest to Jesus. Yet, we have incredibly difficulties using the terms apostle and prophet. We look with skepticism when, for example, Christians from Africa are not afraid to liberally use these terms for describing their leaders. (more…)
For the last couple of years I have been spending a lot of time helping the homeless. I have taken them into my home, helping them get a job, taking their children to school and arguing for their rights and dignity in the media. I’ve protested when they have been mistreated or deported and I’ve celebrated God’s victory over Satan with them on street parties. Also, I’ve been frustrated with them over the fact that most churches and Christian homes won’t take them in.
There are four million homeless in Europe and eleven million empty houses. Not only that, their are at least 14 million evangelical Christians who could easily fit the homeless into their living rooms and guest rooms. The Bible emphasises that hospitality is something all Christians should engage in:
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13).
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2).
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).
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.
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…)
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)
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…)
Originally posted at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice.
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…)
Originally posted at christiancommunity.co.uk.
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…)
Originally posted on Jesus Army’s website.
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”.