Happy Pentecost! I don’t know how it is in your country, but here in Sweden Pentecost is hardly celebrated at all – we’re must more eager to celebrate National Cinnamon Bun Day or Waffle Day (yeah, we have those). But Pentecost is worth celebrating – it’s the amazing power-boosting of the church when it receives the power and love it needs to perform its divinely commanded mission to save the world.
The book of Acts describes how the Holy Spirit baptized all of the early Jesus followers – men and women alike – and gave them the miraculous gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues and preaching an epic sermon that leads to 3000 people accepting Jesus as their Saviour and receiving eternal life. It’s dramatic, it’s fantastic and it’s very supernatural.
Pentecost is repeatable – we can also experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit and be equipped with His miraculous gifts to spread the word about eternal life in Jesus. Pentecostals have always emphasized this: they often talk about preaching the “Full Gospel” – both salvation and Spiritual baptism – and the early Pentecostals said that they had restored the “Apostolic Faith”.
Had they, though? (more…)
It’s almost been one month since pastor Bill Johnson called evangelist Jason Westerfield out as a false prophet, but Jason has still not said anything about this publicly. Here, I talk about this and comments some of the comments I’ve received from my previous video and blog post about Bill and Jason. I hope and pray that Jason soon will announce that he does not believe in new age and that he confesses Jesus Christ as divine Son of God.
I have a friend called Elijah*, who used to be a Muslim but became a Christian after Jesus showed Himself to him in a prophetic vision. He know works with a missionary organisation and is spreading the Gospel in the Middle East. A couple of months back when he was visiting some churches in a South Asian city, a couple approached him when he was walking through a mall. They tried to convert him to Islam, but in 20 minutes time they became disciples of Jesus.
See, they told him that about six months earlier, they had been watching TV. As they zapped through the channels, they came to a Christian channel where Swedish pastor Stanley Sjöberg was preaching the Gospel. Since they were devout Muslims, they became upset, shut the TV down and went to bed.
The next morning, they told each other that they had had a strange dream. They soon discovered that it was exactly the same dream! Stanley Sjöberg had come to their house, they had let him in and he continued to preach about Jesus. As they protested, Stanley said “My friend Elijah will tell you more about Jesus”, and from nowhere they saw a Middle Eastern guy sitting next to Stanley. Stanley went on saying that they would meet him in a particular South Asian city, on one particular day at 5 PM.
They didn’t know what the dream meant and thought it was a bit freaky that they both dreamt it the same time, but after a bit if reasoning the wife said “Maybe Allah has given us this dream to find Elijah and convert him to Islam. Let’s go to that place – if we don’t find him we will just have a nice holiday.” (more…)
In today’s Lunchtime with Micael we will look at the parable of the talents, and why it doesn’t prove that Jesus supported inequality or capitalism. Five years ago I was sitting on the train to a Christian youth festival in central Sweden, when a representative from the Christian Democratic Party, who were going to the same festival, sat down next to me. We started to chat, and it was soon revealed that we thought a bit differently when it comes to poverty and wealth.
He thought that capitalism was amazing and had no problem with “income disparity”, or inequality. When I pointed out that Jesus wants equality and criticizes the rich, he said “Nope, in the parable of the talents he clearly praises economic investment and banking, and has nor problem with some people being richer than other.”
The parable he was referring to is found in Matthew 25 and Luke 19. It’s a long parable and you can read it yourself here (it’s verses 14-30), but the main message is that a man hands over some talents, i.e. ancient money, to his servants. Two of them invest their money and dubble their capital, which makes the man really happy when he comes back. However, one servant (who only got one talent in contrast to the other’s three and five) didn’t invest his money but put them in the ground. – something that makes his master furious so that his talent is taken away from him and he is deported from the household. (more…)
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. (James 5:1-6)
When I read this the first time, I had already started to re-evaluate my rich lifestyle based on Jesus’ command about selling everything one has and the community of goods practised by the apostles. So I wasn’t shocked when I found James’ text, rather, I thought “This is spot on, exactly what I have been thinking!” I still think that this text is extremely powerful and true when it comes to highlighting the immorality of being rich, how rich people build their wealth on exploitation of cheap labour and how they ultimately kill innocent, poor people.
But not all Christians are as excited about selling everything they have as I am. Since few will go as far as Martin Luther who claimed that the letter by Jesus’ brother isn’t as holy as other Biblical epistles, most rich Christians that I’ve heard commenting this text are arguing that James is talking about a certain type of rich people, which (fortunately) do not apply to them. This is totally incorrect, and here’s why. (more…)
In school, I learned that there are three major branches of Christianity: Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christianity. I haven’t questioned this until recently: why aren’t Orthodoxs called protestants, since they’ve rebelled against the Catholic church just as we have (or perhaps, from their perspective, Rome rebelled against them during the great schism)?
An argument against that is that the Orthodox church(es) claim, just like the Roman Catholic church, to be the uncorrupted church with direct historic lineage to the holy community of the Biblical apostles. Protestant churches, however, recognize that these churches are not that uncorrupted, but that false doctrines and practices has developed during the millennia.
In fact, many Catholics and Orthodoxs will admit that they believe in things that there is no evidence that the Biblical church believed in, but they will argue that when the church(es) introduced these things it was because it (they) had matured, and got to think about more fundamental things than how to survive persecution.
So basically, we have two streams of thought here: those who think that the church changed in a good way (which we, for simplicity’s sake, can call evolutionism) and those who think it changed in a bad way. Those who think the church changed in a bad way, usually propose that we should go back to the good way. This is commonly called restorationism or Christian primitivism, the idea that we should restore Christianity to its Biblical, primitive form. As many of you know, I am a restorationist Christian.
Two weeks ago something quite unusal happened: Bill Johnson, pastor in Bethel Church, Redding, which is one of the most influential charismatic churches in the US, opened his Sunday sermon with publicly warning against prophetic evangelist Jason Westerfield. Westerfield has been a student at Bethel, and both he and Johnson were filmed in the amazing charismatic documentaries Finger of God and Furious Love, that covers miraculous stuff that God is doing around the globe.
Now, Johnson said, “There has actually been a spiritual deception welcomed in his life to such a degree that it’s absolutely frightening. In over 40 years of ministry, I’ve never seen one individual being able to spiritually contaminate so many in one night…. The deception is crazy, there’s a real insanity involved.”
Darren Wilson, who has made the documentaries mentioned above, comments this on his Charisma blog (which I really recommend). He says that since Furious Love he hadn’t met Jason until a brief meeting two years ago, which perplexed him:
…the longer we talked, the more my heart sank. This wasn’t the same guy I had known. In fact, he was hardly recognizable to me anymore.
I won’t get into the particulars of our meeting or what we talked about, but suffice to say that Jason steered it into very odd and bizarre territory (aliens, interplanetary travel, etc.) and the whole time I just kept thinking, “What does any of this have to do with the gospel?“
Welcome to my brand new show Lunchtime with Micael where you can watch me eat lunch and hear me talk about God. In this first episode I’m reviewing one of the best books I’ve ever read: Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere. Jack is the ex-cessationist who became totally surprised when he realized that the Holy Spirit is still bestowing miraculous gifts, and who then became an influential theologian in the charismatic third wave movement.
In this book he’s talking about the gift of prophecy, and he combines Bible study, smart theology and amazing testimonies. Deere has enormous knowledge about the Bible (he’s a professor of the Old Testament) and he’s also experienced some really amazing miracles, not the least through his friendship with prophet Paul Cain.
At the end of the Lunchtime with Micael clip I read one of the testimonies: how another prophetic friend of Jack’s could tell a girl what she did last Tuesday and let her know that God loves her. It’s a really powerful testimony, and you can hear Jack himself talk about it in this clip:
I give the book 10/10, I recommend it with all of my heart. You can listen to some of the stuff that Deere talks about in the book for free here.
Scientifically speaking, why the universe exists and why it looks like what it looks like is still a mystery. We don’t know why anything exists rather than nothing, or why energy-matter works as it does. Furthermore, there is still no explanation to why the universe’s force constants are as they are.
Christian apologist William Lane Craig, among others, talk about the universe being fine tuned for life, planets, stars and even atoms to exist, as you can see in the video above. The cosmological constant, Λ, has a value of approximately 10−122, and if this would change by less than a trillion’s trillionth of a percent, the universe would either be sucked back into a black hole right after big bang or disparse so quickly that stars would never form.
Leonard Susskind, professor of theoretical physics at Stanford, explain the fine tuning of the universe in more detail above. Now, if the universe was caused either by nothingness or from something unintelligent and non-designing, as atheists would argue, the fine tuning becomes really hard to explain. Our universe where the cosmological constant and other constants like the gravitational constant are suitible for stars, planets and life to exist, is ridiculously unlikely. Susskind is not a theist due to his lack of faith in miracles, but he isn’t an atheist either because of his inability to refute the idea that a divine entity caused this complex universe, and so he remains agnostic. (more…)
Extreme Commands for an Extreme World
When I was 16 years old, I read in the newspaper about world poverty. For the first time, I learned that one billion people suffers from what the UN calls extreme poverty – less than 1,25 US dollars per day – and that due to the horrible circumstances that such low income brings, 50 000 people die from extreme poverty every day. That’s 18 million in a year. Chocked by these facts, I opened my Bible later that day and found the story about Jesus and the rich man:
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:21-23)
This wasn’t the first time I encountered this passage, but when I had done so previously I had simply interpreted Jesus in a non-literal sense. I thought that when He said “Sell everything you have” to the rich man, He meant “Put me as number one in your heart, give all of yourself to me.” Not that He literally wanted the dude to sell everything he had because, come on, that’s extremely… extreme.
This week I got the privilege of joining the MennoNerds vlogging relay race, where Anabaptist nerds like myself share stuff in YouTube videos. Last week, Steve Kymes talked about some of his favourite books, and so I continued with talking about the Book of Books, the Holy Bible. In the video, I present three points that I think are important when reading and interpreting the Bible, and I want to explain these in a bit more detailed manner here:
1. The Bible is a Prophetic Book
The single reason why Christian and Jews view the Biblical Scriptures as holy and divinely inspired, is because we believe that they are prophetically written. Prophecy simply means that God communicates to a human being, and that’s really what Paul is talking about when he says that the Scriptures are inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16).
Why is this important? Well, it’s a very good reason to why we today should “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” (1 Cor 14:1). When we understand prophecy we can better understand the Bible. Being a charismatic simply makes you a better Bible reader, in my opinion. (more…)
Over 3800 have died and over 100 000 people are homeless in the devastating Nepali earthquake last Saturday. Nepal is a precious nation for me personally – my church has been working there a lot – and so I quickly looked up what organizations are providing humanitarian relief. Here are some I can recommend:
Christian Aid are bringing aid relief such as water purification kits and temporary shelter through the international aid network Act Alliance. You can donate in pounds, euros and dollars.
The Mennonite Central Committee already have offices and personell in Nepal, and thankfully all are safe but they obviously have a lot to do now and need support.
World Vision is initiating a response to bring food, water, shelter, emergency health interventions and other types of aid to Nepal.
Finally, UNICEF is coordenating with other UN bodies for a massive response to make sure that especially children are safe. You can donate at their website in almost every currency there is.
Also, please pray for the people of Nepal, all the humanitarian aid workers and the Nepali church in these challenging times. God bless you!
Right now I’m at a Christian conference called Salvation, Miracles and Activism in my hometown of Uppsala, and I’m one of the organisers. It’s not a conference in a big auditorium; but just like my church we meet in the streets and in my home. We’re about fifteen people; if we had been more we would have met in several homes at once. Yesterday we started things off with a Jesus meeting in the city park, and afterwards we went to my place to watch the epic trailer for my upcoming documentary and plan today’s activities.
The theme of the conference is how to combine evangelism, Spiritual gifts and activism for peace and justice. We’re talking about these things in my living room right now, and in the afternoon we will do a demonstration for the Act Alliance campaign Act for Climate Justice, and in the evening we will evangelise together with the Pancake Church. Tomorrow we will have a “Come in, go out”-service with my church Mosaik.
This semester, I’m finishing my bachelor program in Peace and Development studies at Uppsala University, and I’m doing that by solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Seriously, I solved it. It’s done.
Now, what’s left is simply Israeli and Palestinian leaders obeying my policy recommendations, which could be a little trickier. But when it comes to the actual conflict resolution proposal, I’m quite confident that this would indeed solve the Middle East conflict once and for all.
Here you can download my paper as a PDF: Israel and Palestine – Solving this Mess Once and for All
The paper includes a lot of background, conflict resolution theory and a discussion about pros and cons with both a two-state and a one-state solution. The juicy part is of course my actual solution, which reads like this:
I propose the establishment of a Federation of the Holy Land, consisting of the State of Israel and the state of Palestine based on the 1967 Green Line, as well as the federal district of Jerusalem (including Abu Dis). Both the Knesset and a Palestinian parliament may be located in Jerusalem, together with a new federal parliament and possibly a senate.
As poor people are being oppressed by rich people, the poor paradoxically often blame other poor people for their misery. The apostle James, Jesus’ own brother who is one of my favourite author, writes in his letter about how strange it is for the Christians of his time to despise the poor while the rich oppressed them:
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? (Jam 2:5-7)
I have read in the news that in South Africa, some people suffering from unemplyment and marginalization violently attack immigrants from countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, accusing them for “taking our jobs”. At the same time, white South Africans earn six times as much money than blacks, which of course means that if whites earned less there would be more money to employ people with, just as this American CEO could raise the wages of all his employees by lowering his own.
The European colonisers who plundered Africa’s natural resources, installed racist segregation and enjoyed wealth and luxury in gated communities while the indigenous population suffered in poor townships, are the immigrants that black South Africans should really be caring about, since most of their white descendants still are much richer than the rest of the population. SA is one of the most unequal countries in the world. Yet, the poor starts to blame other poor people from other countries. Why is that?