This is as the title suggests the fourth part of my God vs Poverty series.
“Give a man a fish and he has food for a day. Teach him to fish and he has food for a lifetime.” We’ve all heard that, haven’t we? It’s a good proverb about the importance of empowerment and long-term solutions in aid giving. But what about the lake? What if the man cannot fish even after we taught him because the lake is polluted by a multinational corporation, or illegal to fish from because of an unrighteous regime? In other words, are there structures that are blocking development and poverty reduction?
The Bible is well aware of structures that oppress the poor. It is very common that the Old Testament not only talks about giving to the poor but treating them fair in court (see for example Prov. 22:22-23), so that they will not be discriminated. When Isaiah prophesies about true fasting, he doesn’t just talk about giving food and clothing to the ones in need but he also says that it includes “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Is 58:6). In order to fight poverty effectively, we have to identify oppressing structures and crushing them.
As Nelson “Madiba” Mandela went home to the Lord, basically all of my activist friends have mourned his departure, and of course my South African friends as well. When I was in SA this summer many prayed for his healing, not because they thought he was immortal but because they felt that they weren’t ready to live in a South Africa without him.
He stood not only for justice and equality but also for unity and reconciliation, and even though I personally think he treated the whites a bit too kindly through letting them keep large parts of their wealth, and thus not overcoming SA’s enormous economic inequality, the fact that he wasn’t as hostile towards whites as for example Robert Mugabe created an atmosphere of much more tolerance and acceptance.
However, many South African whites are very disappointed with him and the ANC, some for racist reasons and some for facing the fact that they’re not as privileged as before, and thus there is still a hostility towards Mandela. This is appearant in that some whites still call him a “terrorist” just as the racist minority government, as well as the United States, once did. And even today some Americans join their white South African cousins in calling Mandela “terrorist”. Needless to say, this is severely problematic.
One should recognize that “terrorist” is a pejorative term. It is used by states that kill civilians to describe small armed groups that oppose their interests. Yes, states that kill civilians. I know of no state that accuse others of killing civilians that do not do it themselves. And I don’t just mean through collateral damage, but intentional killing of civilians.
How rude of me, I’ve let you reading my blog for 18 months without ever introducing myself! Here’s a short presentation of how and why I received my passion to combine charismatic theology with activism for peace and justice, based on an article I’m currently writing for Pax Pneuma, the journal for Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice.
Although being raised in a Swedish Lutheran family, religion never meant very much to me until April 2006, when I was radically born again at a mass in the giant Uppsala Cathedral. I started to pray and read the Bible, and I was fascinated by how the liturgy of my church – that previously was nothing but a bunch of pointless, boring rituals for me – had ancient roots filled with holy meaning.
But I also started to spot differences between church and Scripture. I was surprised that Jesus commanded His disciples to heal the sick and raise the dead (Mt 10:8) – something I had thought were things only Jesus Himself did to prove that He was the Son of God – and I was even more surprised to realize that I was a disciple (Mt 28:19)! “Disciples” was a term that I had thought only referred to the twelve men closest to Jesus, not people today. Now I realized that I was actually supposed to do the things Jesus commanded the apostles to do (Mt 28:20a).
Yet, people weren’t prophesying or casting out demons very much in my Lutheran church, so I started to attend some charismatic and Pentecostal churches. As I grew deeper into the charismatic movement, I saw some differences between church and Scripture here as well though, specifically when it came to peace and justice.
In my last blog post, I said that prophecy has multiple purposes: practical information about the state of things here on earth; personal revelation about God’s plan for an individual’s life; and repetative teaching about God and the spiritual realms that are in line with the Bible. I argued that evangelicals do not need to worry about that these kinds of prophecies would challenge the authority of Scripture, and thus there is no need to ban all prophetic activity or to wrongly argue that the prophetic gift has ceased. However, now I want to turn to the dangerous type of prophecy – that reveals stuff about the Lord and His Kingdom that you can’t find in the Bible.
Let me take one example. Many of you have probably heard about Colton Burpo, a young boy who started to tell his parents when he was four years old about how Heaven looked like. Amazingly, he even knew about dead relatives that his parents had never told him about. Colton’s visions of Heaven were in large parts in line with the Bible’s visions – something his parents also were really amazed by since they hadn’t taught much of that to him – but it also exceeded the Bible. For example, he said that Jesus had a rainbow horse. And that the Holy Spirit was blue.
Now, evangelical heresy hunters weren’t late to proclaim Colton Burpo as a young false prophet. On my Swedish blog, one of them told me “This is totally non-biblical! Show me in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is blue!” And I simply answered: “Would it had been more biblical if the Holy Spirit had been transparent?”
The Angel gives an “unnecessary” message to Joseph
The strange Strange Fire conference has put me into debate with some cessationists, especially when making this video. One common cessationist argument is that if the gift of prophecy still exists, the Bible isn’t our only source for doctrine about God, and thus the door to heresy stands wide open. Tom Pennington also uses this argument in his (bad) case for cessationism.
What I try to explain then is that firstly, prophecy has multiple purposes. 1 Samuel 9 contains a fascinating story about how Saul is looking for his father’s donkeys, and walks to prophet Samuel to see if he can use his prophetic gift to find out where they are. Before he even says something, Samuel invites him to dinner and adds “As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found.” Then he reveals that the Lord has showed him that Saul is the new king of Israel, and anoints him.
Now, neither the revelation about the donkeys nor that Saul was to be king was doctrinal revelation; rather, they revealed a practical circumstance and God’s plan for an individual. These prophetic aspects should of course always be tested (1 Th 5:19-22), but there is not much need to worry about false doctrines here.
Furthermore, God can also confirm what He has previously said in the Bible. For example, God can, if He wants to, send an angel to me to tell me that He loves me. I told this to a cessationist, whereby he asked “Why would God send an angel to tell me that He loves me if that information has already been revealed to me in the bible?”
I told you he would be a good pope! Francis has become extremely popular both within and outside the Catholic world. He both teaches and practices simplicity and mercy; he wears simple clothes and refuses to live in the fancy apostolic palace while emphasizing the duty of Christians to embrace the poor, wounded and lost. Recently, his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium has received a lot of attention in the media. It is mainly about evangelism and missions, but what has caught the attention of many is his criticism of capitalism:
“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.
“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?
“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”
Many are quite surprised by this and speculate whether it is an influence of Latin American liberation theology, since pope Francis comes from Argentina. However, while Francis definitely has a stronger emphasis on social justice than his predecessors, this thoughts should probably by no means have been alien to them. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical letter Centesimus Annus:
“It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are ‘solvent’, insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are ‘marketable’, insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish.”
If you read this article and you like it, you can check out some of my earlier thoughts on the Charismatic movement by reading this blog post: http://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/a-mennonite-who-speaks-in-tongues/
In our modern world, the Charismatic movement has gotten a somewhat bad rap unless you are Pentecostal yourself. There are two main ways of thinking of the charismatic movement according to the Christians that I have met.
Deborah once again writes awesomingly about signs and wonders from a Mennonite perspective. I agree on *almost* everything, not being as critical as her towards the first group of charismatics she describes (those who believe that all people can prophesy).
A month ago, I wrote about the mix of tears and joy, suffering and glory that Iris Ministries in the Democratic Republic of Congo is experiencing. While people are losing their children and the women are raped by soldiers; miracles are abundant and the church has a burning passion for God. This paradoxal relationship between the cross and the glory may be hard for Western people to understand, but it is very real. Today I want to introduce you to a missionary who also experienced this in the Congo – but 50 years ago. Her name is Helen Roseveare.
After studying medicine in the UK and feeling the calling to be a missionary, Helen went to what was then Belgian Congo and started to develop the pretty much non-existant health care system. She was the only doctor for two and a half million people, saving thousands of lives. In the early 60′s, civil war broke lose as the Congolese people wanted to be liberated from Belgian colonialism. The war was extremely brutal. Helen was raped, twice.
Government soldiers came to my bungalow, ransacked it, then grabbed me. I was beaten and savagely kicked, losing my back teeth through the boot of a rebel soldier. They broke my glasses, so I could not see to protect myself from the next blow. Then, one at a time, two army officers took me to my own bedroom and raped me. They dragged me out into a clearing, tied me to a tree, and stood around laughing. And while I was there, beaten and humiliated and violated and ridiculed, someone discovered in the bungalow the only existing hand-written manuscript of a book I had been writing about God’s work in the Congo over an eleven-year period. They brought it out, put it on the ground in front of me, and burned it.
It takes less than that for others to leave both the country and the faith. But Helen knew the power and love of the living God, and she knew that He had called her to Congo to be an instrument of grace and peace. In an interview with Jesus Army, she told about the revival fires that her church saw in the midst of chaos:
This is as the title suggests the third part of my God vs Poverty series.
In the last part of God vs Poverty, I talked about the importance of giving aid to the poor. I am critical to the “trade instead of aid” idea expressed by people like Dambisa Moyo (who thinks that all aid to Africa should be stopped in five years) simply since it is irresponsible, harmful and not very smart. Trade is not the magical solution to poverty reduction, since many companies only have their own profit in mind. In contrast, aid agencies have a genuine goal to help the poor.
Still, trade is important. In fact, it’s necessary for poverty reduction. Acts 20:33-35 says:
“I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
In other words, if we are able to work but aren’t doing it, we are using resources that could have been given to the poor. As long as we are healthy and there are job oppurtinities, we should work. But we must remember that all jobs aren’t good jobs!
How could you possibly celebrate the birth of a Saviour in a better fashion than mass consumption and environmental destruction? Well, perhaps you can. Christmas is all about generosity, and Jesus surely liked that, but the Christmas generosity seems to be about buying stuff that you primarily give to rich people, while the Jesus genorosity was about selling stuff and giving the money to the poor (Mark 10:21).
How about we use this season where everyone wants to buy stuff to sell stuff? It’s good for the environment and we will be able to give a lot more to beggars and aid organizations. Simply go to second hand websites or donate them to some charity driven second hand store.
It’s something that’s surely gonna make the reason for the season very happy Merry christmas!
This has been one of those nights that are hard for me to describe. As always, our emphasis was on the preaching of the Gospel of salvation, to which many thousands responded. But when the Gospel is preached the inevitable result is miracles. Even though I hardly said anything about healing, the Holy Spirit loves to confirm the lordship of Jesus and manifest His Kingdom through supernatural demonstrations.
Tonight we saw so many healings: A man blind for ten years healed. A woman with an issue of blood healed. A deaf man healed. A lady threw her walking stick away. A woman took off her neck brace. I even danced with the woman who had been lame. But the most moving testimony came at the very end. I asked our video team to quickly give me the raw video watch it above so you can see for yourself what happened just a few moments ago.
A man who had been deaf for almost two years had just arrived in town from another city by train and had unwittingly ventured into the city centre (Independence square – where our campaign is being held). He was a Muslim. He had no intention of coming to a Gospel meeting and he could not understand anything that was going on anyway, so he lied down and went to sleep. But when he woke up, to his utter amazement, he could hear! He came to the platform and stood before me trembling, overcome with emotion. He had a look of shock on his face. “My name is Mohammed,” he said, and he proceeded to tell me his story.
You probably haven’t missed it – the super storm Hayian has killed thousands, displaced 600 000 and affected 10 million people primarily in the Philippines. So many people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid right now, and doubts whether the aid really reaches the target could be fatal if it leads to inaction. I cann assure you that the three organizations below are serious, effective and accountable and highly recommend that you donate large sums to them, while praying passionately that God will do miracles through His Philippine church and save many lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Image from christianaid.org.uk
Christian Aid‘s local partner organisations are already assessing the damage and they have dispatched four emergency response assessment teams in the worst hit areas. They’ve helped people reach emergency shelters and will be providing families with essential items such as food, blankets, basic first-aid kits, cooking utensils, shovels for cleaning up and cash assistance. Read the latest update on the situation in the Philippines here.
UNICEF is rushing emergency supplies to areas of the Philippines ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan on 8 November, as the latest estimates indicate that up to 4 million children could now be affected by the disaster.
In this clip, my favourite theologian John Wimber shares how he thought a church service looked like before he, as a newly converted believer, had ever visited one. He thought that people met at church, worshipped, had a good time and then decided who should go where: “You go downtown, I’ll take Anaheim”, etc. Then they would go out, heal some sick, cast out some demons and lead a few people to Christ, and then they would have lunch afterwards.
Unfortunately, John’s church wasn’t like that. After having attending a whole bunch of boring services he once asked his pastor “When are we gonna do the stuff?” “What stuff?” “You know, the stuff Jesus did – healing the sick, raising the dead” “Well, we don’t do that anymore. You just have to believe that it was done once.” John was confused and asked “What do we do then?” “What we did last morning!” John gasped: “For this I gave up drugs?”
I had similar thoughts when I was a new believer. I always thought it was strange that the church meetings were called “services”, since 95% of the people in my church weren’t serving very much. In fact, we hardly did anything except singing a few hymns and walking to the altar to receive communion.
When I later on joined a charismatic church the singing part got a bit more active, but beside that you didn’t do anything in church except receiving – receiving a sermon, receiving prayer or receiving a cute song from the Sunday school group. Continue reading →
God has been speaking to me about the Jesus Movement the last couple of months, and I’m planning to do some deeper research of this renewal when I get the time. For you who aren’t aware of it, it sprang up mainly among saved hippies in the 60′s and 70′s and spread from the US to Europe. The Jesus People, or Jesus Freaks as they gladly called themselves, were passionate charismatics who preached the Gospel in the power of signs and wonders while many of them also were pacifist peacemakers and radical supporters of social justice – many of them practiced community of goods. In other words, it was a Holy Spirit Activism movement!
As I read and watch clips about the Jesus Movement, I get the impression of a theology that is in all ways charismatically evangelical, but expressed in a very attractive and simple way. A review of a book about the movement simply dubbed it “sweetness”. I like that! The Jesus Freaks were radical, zealous and crazy, but above all that also very sweet.
Worship with the team from Iris Global
I encountered this sweetness in another context two days ago in Stockholm, Sweden. My friend had invited me to a prayer meeting that he hosted together with a travelling team from Iris Global. Iris Global is, as those of you who follow this blog should know by now, also a movement that combines signs and wonders with social justice, and these folks were no exception.
One of my best experiences from my visit to Iris Ministries South Africa this summer was to meet and do a interview with their leader Surprise Sithole. Surprise has, as I’ve written before, had an amazing life with many miracles as he has been preaching the Gospel and helped the poor in southern Africa. In the interview I asked him how he likes the idea of combining miracles with peace and justice, what his conception of poverty is and how it feels to see God raise someone from the dead. This is what he answered: