Breaking News: Giving Homes to Homeless People… Actually Defeats Homelessness!

From our protest action against the municipality's decision to evict homeless people today. The sign reads "Provide the poor and homeless with shelter - Is 58:7"

From our protest action against the municipality’s decision to evict homeless people today. The sign reads “Provide the poor and homeless with shelter – Is 58:7″

I’m not a big fan of the Young Turks – them being not very devoted to Jesus – but I thought this clip was extremely funny and interesting when they point to the fact that giving free homes to homeless people… actually defeats homelessness:

The American state of Utah has been doing this for the last ten years – every homeless person gets a house and access to a social worker and a case worker who will help them getting a job, be intergrated in society and get mental health care if they need some. At first, the house is free, and if they get a job they’ll pay 30% of their income for the house. The result is that homelessness in Utah has decreased with 78%  – and it turns out that they seem to have saved a lot of money: the annual cost for E.R. visits and jail stays for each homeless person is around $ 16,670, while the cost for a free house and a social worker for each homeless person was $11,000. Plus, they get a job quicker!

This model of housing first is being tried in more and more communities over the world. In my own town of Uppsala here in Sweden, the City Mission – a Christian charity working with homeless people – have actively proposed the model.

Some seem to be very surprised that giving homes to homeless people actually defeats homelessness and creates a better society. Now, don’t get shocked, but scientists suggest, that it may very well be so, that if we give food to hungry people, we will defeat hunger. There is even a slight possibility – I may be wrong – that if we give clothes to naked people, they will be clothed!

share your food with the hungry
and provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, clothe them,
and do not turn away from your own flesh and blood. (Is 58:7)

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Scientists, Journalists, and Doctors on Healing

I’m currently writing on a minor thesis in systematic theology on belief in miracles. I will compare Pentecostal pastor Surprise Sithole in South Africa, former arch bishop of the Swedish Lutheran Church KG Hammar, and pope Francis. One of the books I’m reading as a background for my study is Craig Keener’s excellent Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. For the thesis, I’m mainly interested in his church historical and philosophical chapters, but for my life I’m interested in every single page of this 900-page book. Here’s a very interesting excerpt from Chapter 11: Supernatural Claims in the Recent West:

Scientist, Journalists and Doctors

John Polkinghorne, the scientist-theologian noted in chapter 5, reports a woman whose left leg was paralyzed from an injury. Her doctors had given up trying to do more for her, indicating that she would remain an invalid for life. In 1980, she reluctantly and without any positive expectation agreed to meet with a priest conducting a healing meeting. On their second meeting, she had a mystical vision in which she was commanded to arise and walk. “From that moment she was able to walk, jump and bend down, completely without pain. Her husband, an orthopaedic charge nurse, on examining his wife, found that a large ulcer, which he had been dressing, had also healed spontaneously.” Polkinghorne concludes that one may think what one will, but the account “cannot simply be dismissed on a priori grounds as not having possibly happened.”

Others have collected further claims, and some have investigated them. As in Jamie Buckingham’s supportive follow-up of claims involving one ministry (see below), some popular authors have investigated some of the claims available to them. For example, one investigative reporter for the Eire Daily Times recounts that he did follow up and confirm numerous reports of healings, as well as debunking some others. Some of the confirmed cases were instant and dramatic answers to prayer, and some involved cures never attested as occurring apart from claims of miraculous intervention. Some other investigators have gone further.

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Guest Blog: Economics According to the New Testament

Jesus and the rich young man, who preferred wealth over community of goods

Jesus and the rich young man, who preferred wealth over community of goods

My cyber friend and co-blogging MennoNerd Kevin Daugherty has also seen Christian money guru Dave Ramsey’s apology for rich Christians in an age of hunger that I ciritized in my last blog post (in fact, Kevin was the one that brought Ramsey’s statements to my attention), and he has written an excellent repsonse where he talks about what the New Testament really says about wealth and poverty. I’ve received his permission to share the blog post here with you:

Growing up, I was often exposed to the idea that capitalism and Christianity go together. Profit and wealth were not simply compatible with Christianity, but were a sign of God’s blessing or your personal piety. I remember going to the Christian bookstore once or twice and seeing large piles of books with that topic specifically in mind, usually by Dave Ramsey, who was recently on the 700 Club for a new book of his. In that interview, one of the first things mentioned is how Ramsey and Robertson agree that wealth is a good thing, and that those who see wealth as bad are wrong, even “gnostic.” I don’t think the heretics here are the “gnostics” who believe that wealth is wrong; rather, I think the heretics here are Ramsey, Robertson, and others in their camp, who seem to have forgotten what the New Testament and early church taught concerning economics.

Ramsey likes to talk a lot about biblical finances. He claims that when he gives someone financial advice that it is done through following what the Bible says. Let’s take a look at what the Bible, specifically the New Testament, teaches Christians concerning finances.

First of all, Christ teaches his followers that they cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). This verse seems to provide a basic summary of Christ’s teachings on wealth. For Jesus, wealth is something of an idol that takes away from our ability to love God, and the hoarding of wealth means that we are not helping those in need. In the same sermon, Jesus commands his followers to give alms and not store up treasures on earth (Matthew 6:1-4, 19-21). In the same gospel, Jesus talks about the importance of serving the needy in the coming judgment as well (Matthew 25:31-46). Luke shares much of the same teachings concerning charity and compassion as Matthew; however, Luke is a little more blunt about it. In Luke 4, Jesus quotes Isaiah 61 in his first sermon, which shows God’s preferential option for the poor, and in Luke’s version of the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-26), they are much more hostile towards wealth. “Blessed are the poor” is matched by “woe to the rich.” 
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No, It’s Not Gnosticism to Be Critical to Wealth

I have nothing to do with Disney but this was a fun meme :))))

One of my greatest passions has for years been to teach what the Bible says concerning poverty and wealth. This is the topic for my blog and youtube series God vs Wealth, as well as my free e-book God vs Inequality. I think it’s very clear in the Bible and in early church writings that Christians should not be rich. Instead, we should live simply and practice community of goods and economic equality, just like Jesus and the apostles.

Someone who disagree with me is Dave Ramsey, Christian money guru who argues that Christians can and should be rich. In an interview with charismatic TV host Pat Robertson, Ramsey says:

“I think there’s a problem out there with some bad and toxic teaching that somehow [says] that if you’ve won money, if you’ve built a level of wealth, if you’ve become successful – biblically you have done something wrong. And that’s actually a form of heresy called gnosticism.”

Is it really gnosticism? It’s not the first time I hear a statement like this, and I would like to debunk it. Firstly, who are Ramsey talking about here? He’s saying that the modern “Gnostics” are attacking the production and accumulation of wealth, rather than the possession and storaging of wealth. Now, it’s important to differentiate between these. Ramsey is basically using the accumulation of wealth to defend the possession of it – he’s talking about “building a level of wealth” and “becoming succesful”.

As I argue in my e-book God vs Inequality, the Bible says that we should work and produce wealth, but not for personal gain but for the benefit of the common. Thus, while we work we should be content with food and clothing (1 Tim 6:8) and promote equality (2 Cor 8:13), having everything in common (Acts 2:45). Of course, there is a temptation in earning a lot of money, and many times people earn money through harmful means, destroying the environment or exploiting others, which is unacceptable for Christians. But the main problem for me and other Christian activists such as Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis or Ron Sider is economic inequality and how rich Christians possess a lot of wealth instead of living simply and share all they have with the poor.

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Why Christians Should Be Pacifists

Guest post from my Australian friend Drew Meakin. Check out his website and our common facebook page Charismatic Holiness Anabaptist Theology!

Criteria for defending a Christian belief or practice/ Christian pacifism

In order to defend a Christian belief or practice, one must be able to prove it from 1) scripture 2) history, 3) experience, 4) biblical/historical trajectory.

1) Scripture is of most importance. Can it be confirmed by at least two or three scriptures in the Bible? Do those verses apply to new covenant believers? “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” 2 Corinthians 13:1. Many cultic groups have become errant by building doctrines or beliefs around only one scripture.

2) History is of secondary importance. Was it held to by the early church and has it continued until the present day?

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Sweden Under Attack?

A submarine? Photo from Swedish Armed Forces/SR Nyheter

A submarine? Photo from Swedish Armed Forces/SR Nyheter

Our news media is right now filled with reports and speculations concerning what the army calls “foreign underwater activity” in the Stockholm archipelago. Foreign media like the Guardian and ABC News have also reported on the story, making comparisions with how the Swedish navy were constantly looking for Soviet submarines during the Cold War (and, from time to time, found some). The Swedish military has not conformed that the underwater activity is either a submarine or Russian, but this is what most analysts seem to believe, and several military experts fear that Russia is either spying on Sweden’s defense capacity, or even preparing for war.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Mt 24:6)

Just two months ago, Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace. While we do have sent troops to Afghanistan and other places under UN flag, and while we are one of the world’s primary weapon exporters, there has not been a war on Swedish soil for two centuries (it should also be mentioned that Sweden sold iron to Hitler during World War Two to avoid Germany to hit us).

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Greg Boyd: Do All Roads Lead to God?

Greg Boyd

Greg Boyd

Pastor, author and MennoNerd blogger Greg Boyd has written an excellent piece on his ReKnew website that really brings up the sharp apologist in him. I deliberately share his whole text here because we believers have all things in common:

First, if it’s really true that Jesus is the way to Father and that no one comes to the Father except through him, (Jn 14:6) then it seems that no other religious leader or religious doctrine can bring us to the Father. “The” is a definite article, and it implies singularity. “A dog” could refer to one of any number of dogs. But “the dog” can only refer to one particular dog. If Jesus is the Lord and Savior and the way to the Father, he’s the only one there is.

This isn’t what most people in our relativistic, post-modern age want to hear. I, on occasion, give talks or participate in debates on secular university campuses around the country on issues related to the historical Jesus. Whenever I stand by the claim that Jesus is the only way to God I am confronted with a certain amount of hostility. To think there’s only one way to God, I am often told, is arrogant, ignorant, intolerant and dangerous. Everyone knows these days that there are many ways to God, at least for people who are sincere in what they believe.

What’s odd is that no one has ever been able to provide me with cogent arguments defending this position. When I’ve asked for some, as often as not people have simply stared at me in disbelief, offended at the suggestion that truths this obvious would need supporting arguments.

Always beware when any of your beliefs are so “obviously true” you think they don’t   need supporting evidence or arguments. This the way brainwashed people think!

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One of the Best Documentaries on Climate Change that I’ve Ever Seen

Last weekend, I met some other Christian activists discussing the serious threat of climate change, its effects on the poor and what we should do. We will partake in Act Alliance‘s global climate campaign next year that will urge world leaders meeting at the COP 21 in Paris, December 2015, to finally reach a universal, legally binding agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases, stopping the global warming from reaching more than 2 degrees Celsius. To get some inspiration, we watched an awesome documentary called Disruption, produced by 350.org.

Instead of getting stuck in debates with the skeptics, Disruption simply concludes that the absolute majority of climate scientists agree that this is an enormous threat towards especially the poor and vulnerable. The title refers to “the dangerous environmental tipping points after which the entire climate system could spiral out of control, as well as the need for a mass social movement to disrupt the status quo and business-as-usual approach which is inhibiting the bold actions necessary to protect the planet’s future.” If the current global warming melts the arctic or releases tons of methane in the tundra, climate change may spin out of control. It is urgent to stop this as soon as possible.

Disruption is thankfully not just about the problem, but mainly about the solution. It’s a film by activists for activists, and its main focus is the historic People’s Climate March, the biggest climate manifestation in history. The documentary was released two weeks prior to the actual march, so you may feel a little disappointed after watching it without seeing what is being prepared throughout the film. But fear not, I got the solution: here are some pics from this amazing event that occured on September 21st in New York, Berlin, London, Lagos, Istanbul and many other places:

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Why Jesus Doesn’t Like Inheritance

Luke-1215It isn’t surprising that Jesus often is surprising, but I find this response of His particularily fascinating in that it’s defenitely not what I would expect someone else to say:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:13-15)

Most pastors, rabbis or other kind of leaders I know of would never, ever, give such an answer. They would politely obey the person and strongly encourage the person’s brother to share their inheritance equally. We all want to be fair, right? But Jesus firstly questions why the person views Him as a judge or an arbiter, secondly He warns the whole crowd for greed and for wanting an abundance of possessions.

See, if it’s fair to split an inheritance equally, how much more fair isn’t it to split all the world’s wealth equally? Jesus practiced community of goods with His disciples (John 13:29), and the church continued to do so when He had levitated into Heaven (Acts 2:44-45). But the inheritance of the world is private, those with rich parents inherits more than those with poor parents. Since the world doesn’t have the Jubilee economic system that Old Testament Israel was supposed to have, there is no mecanism to stop this other than tax, which in most cases doesn’t create much equality (in Sweden we used to have an inheritance tax, but the conservative “Christian democratic” government abolished it). Continue reading

Irenaeus of Lyons (120-202) on the Miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Irenaeus

Irenaeus

As I mentioned last week I’m reading Jeff Doles’ Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church, and it’s amazing to see what God has been doing continously in His church throughout world history. The book is basically only made up by quotes from older works, and it gives clear proof that cessationism – the idea that miraculous spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles – hardly existed before Luther and Calvin. For example, take a look at what Irenaeus of Lyon, the second century bishop who was a disciple to Polycarp – who in turn was a disciple of John the evangelist – says concering miraculous gifts when he refuted the Gnostics in his famous work Against Heresies:

“Those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole.

Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and which she exerts day by day for the benefit of the Gentiles, neither practising deception upon any, nor taking any reward from them* [on account of such miraculous interpositions]. For as she has received freely from God, freely also does she minister [to others]**. (Against Heresies, book 2, chapter 32, section 4)

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Dear Christian, Please Sincerely Love All Muslims

About a month ago, Charisma News published an article called “Why I Am Absolutely Islamaphobic” by Gary Cass as an op-ed. The article is now removed since quite a lot of people were upset over the fact that Cass wants to steralize, deport and kill Muslims. You can still view the article on Cass’ website, and it’s not a pleasent reading. He collectively describes all Muslims as potential mass murders and says that there are only three “solutions” to the Muslim problem:

  1. Conversion to Christianity,
  2. D.A.M.N.: Depart All Muslims Now.” (his words) or;
  3. War.

Cass immediately rules out option 1 because, in his opinion “History does not record a mighty move of God in saving masses of Muslims. I believe the scriptures militate against mass Muslim conversions.” Which means that he wants us to depart all Muslims, and wage war against them. “First trust in God, then obtain a gun(s), learn to shoot, teach your kids the Christian doctrines of just war and self defense.”

Oh, did I mention that he wants to “force them all to get sterilized” as well?

As a charismatic Christian, I think it’s totally unacceptable that Charisma lets this awful, hateful piece of shit on their website, and I think that they are extremely weak and cowardly to not issue an apology or any other sort of comment to the fact that the article is now removed. Cass’ Christian Islamophobia is one of the most extreme I’ve seen, but it’s unfortunately not rare in charismatic and evangelical circles nowadays to hear hate, prejudice and xenophobia towards Muslims. In my country, the racist party Sweden Democrats grew tremendously in the latest election, and since they build their politics on Islamophobia it has become more common these days that Christians dare to express hostility towards Muslims more clearly than before.

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No more boasting about human leaders!

John Wimber, Heidi Baker, Jesus and me :)

John Wimber, Heidi Baker, Jesus and me :)

We’ve all met these kinds of people, haven’t we:

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3a, NIV)

Yeah, those worldly Christians who can only eat spiritual baby food. It’s comfortable to believe that Paul is talking about people that weren’t like me, that haven’t read the Bible as much as me and that are way more sinful than me, right? But what is it really that Paul is adressing?

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. (3:3-6)

Oops. I’ve read this countless times, but today I realized that I’ve been a worldly baby for a very long time. I’ve put a lot of pride in human leaders and traditions – whether its John Wimber, Shane Claiborne, Anabaptism or something else.

And of course, I do think that they’re all more Biblical than, say, the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa, but I have gotten more uncomfortable with identifying myself too much with one denomination or theological stream, because I see the Spirit moving in so many of them. Isn’t it ironic that many Protestant denominations have got their name from individuals – Calvinism, Lutheranism, Mennonitism – precisely what Paul warned us for! We should not focus on the gardeners, but the one who makes the church grow, God Himself.

That being said, leaders are of course not useless: Continue reading

Three Awesome Books on Wealth, Miracles and Community of Goods

three awesome books

I got three amazing books in my hand that I can’t wait to read! Let me introduce them to you:

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity by Ron Sider

Being one of the most popular books during the Jesus Movement in the 70’s, and according to Christianity Today, it’s the seventh most influential book that have shaped evangelicals. Sider goes against the commonly held view that it’s absolutely fine for Christians to be rich while thousands of people are starving to death, using Bible study, statistics on economic inequality and examples of radical Christian groups that have taken the economic teachings of Jesus seriously. Sider’s ideas are very similar to those I express in my series God vs Wealth, but to this point I have actually never read him – I got my ideas directly from the Bible.

A reader called Kelly writes on GoodReads:

“I was really floored by this book. The author first presents some startling and informative statistics on world hunger and poverty, where we have been and what is projected. Then he talks about God’s intense love for the poor, and that if we want to “be imitators of God” we must as Christians learn to share in that love. I left this book really wanting to do more to make a difference… even with specific ideas how! The best thing about this book was also the worst thing – sooo much information. Never before have a seen a pastor… talk so intelligently about ALL facets of poverty. Politics, economics, environment, sociology, religion – these topics were all included in great detail and from a Christian perspective. I have not seen anything more complete out there. That said, it was also very overwhelming (as it probably should be).”

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Heidi Baker, the Widow and the Love of Jesus

Heidi Baker praying for a deaf woman

Heidi Baker praying for a deaf woman

Earlier this year, Iris Global in Mozambique reported about the devestating floods that struck Mozambique, leaving hundreds of thousands of poor people in big need. Iris has been working hard ever since to rebuild homes and helping local communities develop, while they are also praying for the sick, preaching the Gospel and even raising the dead. Recently, they publiched a video showing the movement’s leader Heidi Baker buying a bed for a widow called Louisa, whose house has been destroyed in the floods:

It’s very touching to see the genuine care of Heidi and the overflowing joy of Louisa. Earlier this year, Heidi wrote a newsletter saying: Continue reading

When the Holy Spirit leads us to satan

image

Today I was preaching in my house church Mosaik on Luke 4, and I’d like to share with you the unique relationship between the Holy Spirit and satan that is presented there. Not relationship in the sense that light has anything to do with darkness, but in the sense that when you are baptised in the Holy Spirit, He may take you to where satan lives to beat him up:

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’ ”   

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”   Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” 

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;   they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ”   Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’  ”    When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

(Luke 4:1-13)

In prior to this, Jesus was baptised by John in the Jordan river, and at the same time He was baptised in the Holy Spirit by God the Father, who spoke in an audible voice and called Him His beloved Son. And note that Jesus was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He fasted for forty days until He finally got hungry, and was tempted by the devil. The Spirit sent Jesus to satan.

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