Living like the Apostles at the Jesus Army

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (Acts 2:44-45)

Yesterday, me and my friend Frida arrived in Kettering, England, to visit one of my favourite churches, the Jesus Army. As I’ve pointed out several times before, the Jesus Army is one of the very few examples of when the Jesus hippies of the 70’s organized themselves in their own church instead of joining existing churches, and this has made them able to sustain the radicality, fire and passion for God that characterised the Jesus revival. What is most noticable is that the Jesus Army practices community of goods just like the apostolic New Testament church, something that unfortunately has become very rare among Protestant Christians.

You see, cessationism is sadly not just a doctrine of the margins within the Protestant movement, but a key factor in how both Luther and Calvin viewed Scripture. While claiming that they based their theology on Scripture alone, they deliberately ignored large parts of the Bible that didn’t fit with their theology. Cessationism is generally defined as the idea that miraculous gifts have ceased with the apostles, but within Protestantism we also teach that the community of goods we read about in Acts 2 and 4 ceased with the apostles.

With cessationism, you basically are your own god who make your own bible. Jack Deere, a former cessationist, writes in Surprised by the Power of the Spirit how he didn’t like fasting very much, so he claimed that fasting has ceased with the apostles as well. After all, there are not so many people fasting in the later books of the New Testament. But the problem is of course that the Bible never says that anything – miracles, community, fasting or whatever – would cease with the apostles, and so cessationism is just a way for Christians who claim to be Bible-believing to have a reason not to believe in all of the Bible.
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“Is He a Medium?” “No, He’s a Christian”

Simon Adahl

Simon Adahl

A few days ago I attended a meeting with Simon Adahl, a musician and evangelist that has experienced many miracles. I have already written about how he was saved after his atheist wife saw the apostle Matthew, and how he and his friend Orjan prophesied in a Californian bar and told people stuff about them that they heard from God, which resulted in that four people received Jesus. Let me share with you some other cool things that they have experienced.

Simon loves missions, and when he attends the big Pentecostal conferences here in Sweden he is usually not on the platforms bragging about all the cool miracles he experiences, instead he is sitting in a booth marketing IBRA, a Swedish media missions organization, or Dagen, the biggest Christian newspaper. But of course, the Holy Spirit is active even when you’re not on a platform (thank God). This summer, a lady came to Simon and said that she had been healed from asthma.

“That’s great!” Simon said. “When did that happen?” “Two years ago, in the chair over there”, the lady responded and pointed inside Simon’s booth. This lady had been suffering from severe asthma since she was a little child, and had been using inhalers every night. She said that since the moment she was prayed for in the booth, all asthma disappeared and she hadn’t had a need for inhalers for two years.

Orjan was also at the meeting and he told us about how he and his wife went with Simon and his wife together with some friends from church on a holiday on a ferry to Finland. They were dancing at a club and when they sat down to have something to eat, they sat right by a man they hadn’t met before, who introduced himself as Peter. Orjan felt the Spirit of the Lord coming upon him and he told Peter “Right now, God is renewing your life!” And he commanded him to prophesy over them.

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ISIS, the US and the Iraqi Government – who are the good guys?

Flag of ISIS

Flag of ISIS

This article is part of a Synchro-Blog by the MennoNerds to express responses to the violence in Iraq, specifically answering the question: How do non-violent, peace-making Christians respond to the violence in Iraq both by ISIS and by the nations attacking ISIS. Go here to read all the articles.

The conflict in Iraq is escalating and the United Nations is now warning that the Islamic State, more commonly known as ISIS, may perform a genocide against minorities like Christians and Yazidis. To prevent this, US forces are bombing ISIS militants, France is supporting Kurdish militias and voices are being heard that a new Western invasion in Iraq is necessary. I have also noticed a rise of islamophobia among Christians here in Sweden, since friends of mine have said that this shows the true face of Islam and that Muslims must be restricted to come to Europe.

ISIS is totally mad, their violent fundamentalism is very dangerous and their behaviour is as far from Jesus’ teaching about non-violence and enemy love that you can go. When I read about them I see many parallells to militias like M23 and the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa that I have studied in my peace and development studies. They behead civilians, rape women and want to create their own fundamentalist state.

And just like the conflicts in Congo or Uganda, it’s hard to point out the good guys. There are many reasons people think that this applies to the American forces – they’re trying to save lives while ISIS want to kill entire minorities, they are democratic while ISIS are fundamentalists, they are somewhat Christians while ISIS are militant islamists. But remember that American forces have killed over 120 000 civilian Iraqis since 2003.

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Is Israel Practicing Apartheid?

Click the image for higher resolution

Click the image for higher resolution

Desmond Tutu, formerly archbishop of the Anglican Church in South Africa and a well-known anti-apartheid activist, is one of those people that accuse the state of Israel of practicing the crime of apartheid when it comes to how Palestinians are being treated. This is a quite controversial accusation though, even if it is supported by several human rights advocates and academics, it has also received a lot of criticism, since the situation in Israel and Palestine is noticably different from the South African case.

Mitchell G Bard from Jewish Virtual Library points at the fact that around 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs that have equal rights compared to Jews and other people groups in Israel. Arabs and Muslims are represented in Knesset, in the courts and at the universities. FW De Klerk, former South African President who together with Nelson Mandela ended apartheid, also says that because of this reason it is unfair to call Israel an apartheid state. “You have Palestinians living in Israel with full political rights. They are represented in the Knesset. You don’t have discriminatory laws against them, for example that they may not swim at certain beaches or anything like that.”

However, people who use the apartheid analogy to describe Israeli policy usually discusses how Palestinians are treated by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza rather than how Arabs are treated within Israel. The thing is that race actually can equal nationality according to international law. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Israel along with most other countries has signed, defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life” (emphasis mine).

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Embarrassing Christian Climate Change Deniers

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David Suzuki

Kumi Naidoo, international director of Greenpeace, tweeted an article today that caught my attention. Written by David Suzuki at EcoWatch, it discusses climate change deniers and their mutually exclusive arguments. At a recent conference organized by the Heartland Institute, one of the biggest centers for climate change “skepticism” in the United States, the speakers were arguing that climate change isn’t happening, or that it’s happening but that it’s cooling the earth instead of warming it, or that it is warming it but it’s not caused by humans but by the sun, volcanoes or something else, or that it is happening and it is caused by humans but it’s to expensive to do anything about it.

Obviously, these four theories are not compatible with each others, yet they were uttered at the same conference. The only common thread was, according to Bloomberg news, the constant jokes about Al Gore. I wasn’t at the event, but I recognize the pattern from various climate skeptic blogs that I’ve encountered; and I would like to add another thing that I think is almost universal among climate change deniers: conspiracy theories.

When I took a course in climate change at Uppsala University, we watched a British climate change “skeptic” documentary that argued that the earth is indeed warming, but it’s caused by the sun rather than carbon dioxide. It ended with an attempt to explain why most scientists believe in man-made climate change if it’s so obvious that it is caused by the sun, and the answer was – I’m not kidding now – that they are communists. The voice-over explained to us that after Soviet collapsed, Marxists and leftits felt disillusioned in how they now would crush capitalism, and found their escape in the environmental movement and its demand to decrease fossil fuel usage.
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Poem: I Love Jesus

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These are the lyrics to a song I wrote just a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t recorded it yet so it’s hard for me to give you the melody, but for now you can at least read the lyrics as a poem: 

I Love Jesus, I love Him so
He’s the only one who knows my heart and saves my sinful soul
Of course I love my family, my friends and even foes
But Jesus is my number one forevermore

I love Jesus, I love the Son of God
‘Cause He hangs around with idiots, the losers and the odd
He criticizes people who are self-righteous and proud
And when He sees injustice He gets angry and loud!

I love Jesus, I love what He said
He’s like I’m the way, the truth, the life, the gate, the light, the bread
He debated with the Pharisees and turned them on their heads
And to His disciples He said go and raise the dead!
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Francis – the Charismatic Hippie Pope

Pope Francis, in a Brazilian favela

Pope Francis, in a Brazilian favela

Who would have thought that a Jesus freak would become pope? The main focus of this blog has always been that signs and wonders need to be combined with peace and justice – charismatic Christians need to be activists and activist Christians need to be charismatic – since this is what Jesus taught to His disciples and Holy Spirit activism has the power to transform lives and bring hope in even greater ways that non-supernatural activism. Unfortunately, a lot of times charismatic and evangelical Christians are not huge fans of peace and justice – something that is painfully obvious when you see what many of them write about the Gaza war – and many Christian activists are not very charismatic or evangelical.

But there is, I believe, a growing movement within Christianity that realizes that a charismatic life in the Spirit should be combined with activism for a better world; a movement that crosses all denominations, places and cultures. And by God’s grace we have a sympathizer among the leader of the biggest church in the world: pope Francis.

Few have missed that Francis is a passionate advocate for peace and justice: he has criticized capitalism for neglecting the poor, he lives simply and promotes economic equality, he has prayed for peace in the Middle East both at the Western wall and at the West Bank wall. But what not as many know is that Francis also is a charismatic pope, who believes in Spiritual gifts and who blesses both the Catholic charismatic renewal and Pentecostals.

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John Piper: Why Jews Don’t Have a Divine Right to the Land Anymore

Pastor Piper

Pastor Piper

Ten years ago, John Piper held a sermon on Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. It was a hot topic then and may be an even more hot topic now, and I really recommend you to read it. It may not be any convincing for Jews themselves, since they don’t believe in the New Testament, but Piper gives a good case why Christians should not think that Israel has to occupy Gaza and the West Bank in order for Jesus to come back, but instead support a solution that secures the safety and peace of both Israelis and Palestinians, no matter how the borders look like. Below, I qoute point 3-5 from Piper’s seven-point sermon:

3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.

This was the point of Romans 9. When Paul grieved over the lostness of so many Jews who were rejecting Jesus and were perishing, he said in verses 6-7, “It is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring.” In other words, the promises cannot be demanded by anyone just because he is Jewish. Jewish ethnicity has a place in God’s plan, but it is not enough to secure anything. It does not in itself qualify a person to be an heir of the promise to Abraham and his offspring. Romans 9:8  says it clearly: “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Being born Jewish does not make one an heir of the promise—neither the promise of the Land nor any other promise.

This was plain in the Old Testament, and it was plain the teachings of Jesus (which we will see under truth #4). For example, in the terrible list of curses that God promised to bring on the people if they broke his covenant and forsook him was this: “ And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it” (Deuteronomy 28:63 ). Throughout the history of Israel, covenant breaking and disobedience and idolatry disqualified Israel from the present divine right to the Land. (See also Daniel 9:4-7 ; Psalm 78:54-61 .)

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Resurrecting Pentecost and other Jesus Hippie Songs!

Here’s a song I wrote, it’s called Resurrecting Pentecost!

In a world where all magic is rationalized
And our skeptical doubt make us suffer and die
We need a supernatural healing fire explosion

Let’s go out on the streets with the power of God
Let us empty the prisons and hospitals
Let us birth revival and total transformation

By the power of His Name
We will never be the same

‘Cause we are
Resurrecting Pentecost
Raising up at any cost
Acts in modern times
Healing people eagerly
Sharing all things equally
Proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord
Jesus Christ is Lord!

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The Difference Between Palestinian Rockets and Israeli Bombs

I involuntarily get a lot of updates from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in my social media feeds, since I follow other Christians and some of them think it’s godly to share and retweet war propaganda (frankly, that’s what military forces’ public messages are, per definition). IDF regularly updates how many rockets are being fired from Gaza and how far they reach, but not so often what destruction these rockets cause. And this is of course because most of them either miss or get shot down. Whenever they hit something though, IDF immediately shares it on Twitter:

Breaking Picture

ashkelon

Well… it sure sucks for those people living there, but personally, I wouldn’t kill 200 children because of that. IDF started “Operation Pillar of Defense” before one single person had been killed by the Palestinian rockets. During the conflict though, three Israeli civilians have unfortunately been killed, and IDF could provide some more disturbing images: Continue reading

Early Christian Pacifism

Church Fathers

Church Fathers

Christianity is a pacifist religion. Most of the early church fathers wrote that Christians should not kill or join the military, and the idea of “just wars” first developed in the late fourth century, after Constantine’s reforms. The ante-Nicaene church was to a large extent a non-violent church. This was clearly shown already in 1919 when John Cadoux pubished his book The Early Christian Attitude to War, which is now available online. The research has been updated with Ron Sider’s book The Early Church on Killing, which was published last year. But only by looking at quotes from early church fathers, we see that these saints were far from the war-waging right-wing Christians that unfortunately are quite influential in the public debate today:

Justin Martyr wrote in 160 AD:
“We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for ploughshares, our spears for farm tools. Now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness to men, faith, and the expectation of the future given to us by the Father himself through the Crucified One.” (Dialogue with Trypho 110.3.4)

Tatian (dead c. 185), Justin’s disciple, wrote:
“I do not wish to be king, I don’t want to be rich, I reject military service. I hate adultery”(The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Vol. II, reprint 1979, p. 69)

Athenagoras (133-190) wrote:
“What, then, are these teachings in which we are reared? ‘I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust . . . Who [of the pagan philosophers] have so purified their own hearts as to love their enemies instead of hating them; instead of upbraiding those who first insult them (which is certainly more usual), to bless them; and to pray for those who plot against them? . . . With us, on the contrary, you will find unlettered people, tradesmen and old women, who, though unable to express in words the advantages of our teaching, demonstrate by acts the value of their principles. For they do not rehearse speeches, but evidence good deeds. When struck, they do not strike back; when robbed, they do not sue; to those who ask, they give, and they love their neighbours as themselves . . . We . . . cannot endure to see a man being put to death even justly.” (Legatio 11, 34-35 (Athens, 175))

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Violent Persecutions of Christians in Iraq

"N" in Arabic

“N” in Arabic

A number of houses in Mosul, Iraq, have been marked with the letter “N”. All of these houses belongs to Christians, and “N” is the first word in the Arabic word for Christian, “Nasrani”. Together with the symbol there is often also a text stating “Property of the Islamic state”. This is what pre-genocidal persecution looks like.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), also simply known as the Islamic State, is a fundamentalist islamist movement that has been sparked first by the war in Iraq and recently by the Syrian civil war, and that has taken control over a large area in eastern Syria and western Iraq. The movement has an extreme wahhabist interpretation of Islam and uses a lot of violence. It has cooperated with al-Qaeda, but allegedly, al-Qaeda has cut its ties with ISIS because they thought that ISIS was to radical.

Over a month ago, the islamist rebels took control over Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, which lies closely to the ruins of the biblical Nineveh. Christians have been living in this city for at least 1600 years, but now they were subject to severe persecutions. Besides the threatful “N” marks on their houses, ISIS gave them an ultimatum: convert to islam, pay the expensive jizya tax, or die. As a result, thousands of Christians have fled Mosul and are now internally displaced. Several Christians have already been killed.

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The Blind See and the Deaf Hear in Mbeya, Tanzania

Photo: Mission SOS

Photo: Mission SOS

Two friends of mine here in Sweden have studied a year at SOS Mission Bible School, and a few days ago my Facebook feed was filled with testimonies about miracles thay had seen in Mbeya, southwest Tanzania, where they had done a missions trip. Mission SOS have put several videos from this event on their Vimeo, and I would like to share these amazing testimonies with you:

Update 1 Mbeya 2014 from Mission SOS on Vimeo.

First we have an intro video, where the campaign coordinator shares that miracles are taking place even before the campaign has started.

Update 2 Mbeya 2014 from Mission SOS on Vimeo.

Then comes the report from the first night of the campaign, where many were healed and saved. A young girl shares how she prayed for another girl who was totally deaf, and she starts to weep of joy when she explains how she was healed! Continue reading

The Promised Land, part 5: Canaan or Heaven?

The borders of the land of Israel according to Numbers and Ezekiel. From Wikipedia

The borders of the land of Israel according to Numbers and Ezekiel. From Wikipedia

In this fifth part of the Promised Land blog series, we will look at what the Bible really says about the land of Canaan, a.k.a. the Holy Land, a.k.a. Israel/Palestine. Christian Zionists are often convinced that God wants the Jewish people to possess Gaza and the West Bank, since these areas were included in the biblical land of Israel that God gave to the Jewish people. They say that this divine promise is eternal, and that it must be fulfilled before Jesus returns. A few even think that Israel will possess an even greater area, from Egypt to the Euphrates (including Syria, Jordan, Iraq and parts of Saudi Arabia).

This belief is affecting the current conflict in the Middle East in huge ways. Jews and Christians who are convinced that Gaza and the West Bank rightfully belongs to Israel are often skeptical towards a two-state solution, and they do not criticize the Israeli settlements or the occupation and blockade of Palestinian territory. They have strong lobby groups in both Israel and the US, and even though politicians are more pragmatic, it has been shown very clearly that American and Israeli politics have been shaped by these ideas.

Let us look then at what the Bible actually says about this. The land of Canaan is first mentioned in the book of Genesis, when God calls Abram from modern-day Iraq to resettle in the west. “To your offspring I will give this land.” He said (Gen 12:7) In Gen 15:18, He clarifies what land we’re talking about: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates”, and in 17:8, He clarifies how long this covenant will last – forever! “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” This promise is later transfered to Jacob, or Israel (Gen 28:3-4). That settles it right? Israel has eternal, divine right to all Palestinian areas, as well as to Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Ka-boom!

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Stephen Sizer on Israel, Palestine and the Bible

Stephen Sizer is one of the most influential critics of Christian Zionism, and he has done some extensive research both on Israel and the holy land in the Old and New Testament, as well as the history of Christian Zionism and the present conflict in the middle east. I can highly recommend his Bible studies and other articles where he effectively challenges Christian Zionism and present an alternative Christian response to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that is based on peacemaking, reconciliation and love for all people.

Stephen Sizer

Stephen Sizer

In this video, Sizer is interviewed by Allan Lee, who is clearly pro-Israel but who tries to hold his arguments back in order to listen to Sizer’s reasoning. I’m very impressed by Sizer in this video, he gives a very balanced, respectful and convincing impression when he argues for peace, justice and a biblical viewpoint on Israel.

When Lee talks about the threat of islamist terrorism, Sizer points out that we should ask ourselves why people become terrorists and argues that if we want a secure and peaceful Israel, we should work for justice for Palestinians. When Lee discusses how several Palestinian leaders haven’t recognized Israel, Sizer agrees with that it’s a problem but points out that Israel has never defined its borders and has not recognized a Palestinian state. And when Lee brings up how Gen 12:3 says ” I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” as an argument for standing with Israel, Sizer points out that those words were to Abraham, and according to Gal 3:16, it’s fulfilled not many people but in Christ.

In a time when many Christians are eager to support everything Israel does due to bad theology, Sizer’s input is very welcome to the debate, and I hope this video can convince some Christians to be more balanced, biblical and peaceful when it comes to Israel and Palestine.