Pornography, shopping, countless hours wasted on entertainment, social media scrolling that hardly gives us anything…
The age of the Internet is an age of huge potential and opportunities for mission, networking and activism, but it is also an endless sea of temptations and distractions right at our fingertips.
We often take the latter path, even when we don’t want to. I’m sure most of us clearly can relate to Paul’s words:
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:19)
I myself have struggled with this for a long time. But as the title of this blog post suggests, a simple tip from Jesus Christ himself in his amazing Sermon on the Mount has been a game-changer for me.
And it might not be what you expect:
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
Jesus gives this advice as he teaches on fighting sexual temptation. I took this to heart and now I look like this:
We are called by Jesus to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), resolving conflicts as we go forth to spread the Gospel about his love. Peace is always dependent on at least two parties, which is why we might experience conflict even when our intention is peace.
This is why Paul writes “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18). We try our best on our part, and pray that the other respond constructively.
What does this look like in practice? God seems to be very concerned with us asking that question, since the Bible provides us with several practical tools for conflict resolution and peacemaking.
1. Breaking the cycle of hostility
The first tool is given to us by Paul right after he says that we should seek to live at peace with everyone. He continues: (more…)
You didn’t need an army
You didn’t need a sword
You didn’t need the president
that they are fighting for
You spread your holy Kingdom
with words and deeds alone
And that makes you the greatest King
that I have ever known
You didn’t need a building
You didn’t need a car
The latest tech and fancy clothes
you didn’t need at all
You didn’t need that I were
good-looking, friendly, smart
The only thing you need from me
is just my fragile heart
You didn’t need to suffer
You didn’t need to die
You could have stayed upon your throne
and still be glorified
You didn’t need to save us
You didn’t need to care
But yet you did and that is why
I offer you my prayer
The US is on fire right now. Yet another black man has been killed by police brutality: George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died after a policeman sat on his neck, charging him with paying with a false 20 dollar bill.
Many of you have already seen the horrifying footage: Floyd groaning and screaming, saying that he can’t breath, and later becoming unconscious. He was later confirmed dead.
This has caused a huge uproar across the country this Pentecost weekend. While many protesters are nonviolent, there are also reports of destructive riots and even fatalities. And it doesn’t help that President Trump writes “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” on Twitter, echoing Walter Headley who said this exact thing in 1967 when he threatened to order his policemen to shoot black people.
At PCPJ, we care deeply about racial and social justice. We also believe in nonviolence and enemy love. So while we encourage those who make their voices heard, we cannot stress enough that it needs to be done without any violence. Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. shows us that it is indeed possible to stand up for the oppressed without causing any harm to others. (more…)
The Pentecostal World Fellowship has produced some excellent material about COVID-19 that will be handed out in areas with limited access to information. Through Pentecostal churches and networks, it will hopefully reach 100 million people.
“As far as I know, this is the first time ever that the Pentecostal global network has coordinated an informational campaign about an urgent crisis in society in this way. We hope we will reach out to people in churches all over the world and be able to contribute in limiting and reducing the spread of COVID-19 in societies. This is a chance to be there for marginalized groups who might otherwise not be reached,” Niclas Lindgren, director of Swedish organization PMU that has helped producing the material, said in a statement.
Some examples of the advice provided in the material:
- If someone gets COVID-19, it does not mean they have a spiritual ailment or they are punished by God.
- No person should be stigmatized for contracting COVID-19 or blamed for having had little faith.
- Encourage those who are very sick to seek medical attention according to the national health guidelines (see the example set by Jesus in Luke 17:14).
- No person should be condemned for having practiced caution, remained home or avoided physical greetings. Instead, the exemplary behavior should be highlighted in the church.
- The importance of praying for the affected; comforting and encouraging those who are experiencing fear and anxiety.
As the new coronavirus spreads across the world there is a big risk of it killing tens of thousands if not millions of people. The complaint of the World Health Organization is that many countries are ill-prepared for handling this.
It’s not hard to see why.
Two things are crucial for stopping a pandemic: international cooperation and universal health care of good quality. When these are missing, the likelihood of certain areas around the world becoming infection hubs increases, which in turn spreads the disease uncontrollably. (more…)
The self-isolation that many of us are going through right now is a golden opportunity to work on our devotional life. Personal devotion often ends up in the shadow of Sunday worship, but the fact is that a daily routine of praying and reading the Bible is far more important for spiritual maturity and lasting discipleship than weekly meetings, although they, of course, also play an important role.
Devotions can look a thousand different ways and for them to be long-term sustainable, it is only good to adapt them to what works best in one’s own household. But models can be good for having something to start from.
Therefore, since we are in Easter week, we would like to present a simple arrangement for devotion for the next five days (Wednesday-Sunday). It can be used both individually and as a family. We will read from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death and resurrection and use the following simple structure:
- Bible reading
So, light some candles, wrap yourself in blankets and seek God with us this holy Easter time! (more…)
We love the church. We love how beautiful, fun, messy and weird she is. She is the body of Christ, the city on a hill, the messenger of salvation.
However, this very love also compels us to point out when some of her bodyparts do things that are very, very wrong.
As the coronavirus pandemic marches on, we’re sad to report that the response of some Christians has been outrageously damaging. Either by using the crisis to earn money, spreading wild conspiracy theories or encouraging their church members to infect each other.
We must not forget that many other Christians do an amazing job of combatting the virus, helping the vulnerable and preaching the Gospel.
That being said, let’s have a look at the five worst Christian responses to the pandemic. (more…)
In a time where it was controversial at best and impossible at worst for a woman to preach, Swedish evangelist Nelly Hall (1848-1916) gathered crowds of thousands of people as she preached about salvation, holiness and discipleship.
She was part of the holiness movement, and according to church historian David Bundy, the Holiness Union of Sweden would probably not have existed without her (1).
After being inspired by the preaching of American Methodist evangelist William E. Boardman, and after visiting the Salvation Army’s headquarters in London, Hall decided to become a full-time preacher (2). (more…)
Ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Oxfam has released a devastating report that unveils the extreme economic inequality of our world today. The report shows, among other things:
- The 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa.
- Women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day —a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry.
- Getting the richest one percent to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and childcare, education and health.
Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar commented on the report by saying:
“Women and girls are among those who benefit least from today’s economic system. They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly. Unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving. It is driven by women who often have little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and who are therefore trapped at the bottom of the economy.
“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist”.
Many Christians seem to think that God’s ultimate plan is to obliterate Earth like a Death Star and transport bodiless souls into an immaterial, heavenly realm.
They think that Bible passages like 2 Peter 3:10 means that God will nuke our universe and start from scratch.
But that’s not what the Bible says.
God’s mission is for the Kingdom of Heaven to fully embrace and renew Earth. As theologian N. T Wright points out:
“Rather than rescuing people from the earth in order to reach heaven, the creator God would finally bring heaven and earth together in a great act of new creation, completing the original creative purpose by healing the entire cosmos of its ancient ills.”
The core ideas of Christianity are 1) the incarnation, which means that spirit and matter should unite, not be apart; and 2) the resurrection, which means that the afterlife will be bodily and physical.
2 Peter 3:10 isn’t about God deleting creation but restoring it to its original, sinless state. As Paul says:
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom 8:20-21)
Then we will enjoy eternal, joyful life with him in the New Universe, with endless worship, adventure, and love.
If a violent man attacked your family, what would you do?
Probably every Christian pacifist has been confronted with this question.
The purpose of the question is to make the pacifist realize that violence is sometimes necessary: no matter how much you want to love your enemies, you may face situations in which refusal to use violence will lead to the harm or even death of people you love.
As John Howard Yoder points out in his book What Would You Do?, the questions is emotional. The attacker is always an anonymous man, and when the family members are specified, they are almost always a mother, daughter or wife.
The one posing the question wants as little emotional bonds to the attacker as possible, while the opposite is true for the one being attacked.
Reality, of course, is not as simplistic. (more…)
Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed receives his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. We’re very excited here at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice since this is the second time in a row that a Pentecostal is being awarded this prestigious prize.
Some have the impression that Ahmed is hiding his Pentecostal faith for diplomatic reasons: his nation is divided among both ethnic and religious lines. I recently spoke to Dr Jörg Haustein at Cambridge University who is an expert on Ethiopian Pentecostalism. He told me this wasn’t exactly the case.
“I don’t think he de-emphasizes his Pentecostal faith, but he’s very aware of which audience he is speaking to”, Dr. Haustein says. “There are videos on YouTube, not put up by him but by others, where he’s very Pentecostal in his rhetoric. He knows how to employ his faith in a more plural religiously appealing manner, but it’s also empowering him in the bold things that he’s done. He actually feels that he’s doing God’s work, and that this is what he needs to be doing at this time.”
Ahmed is actually not the first Pentecostal Prime Minister of Ethiopia, his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn was a Oneness Pentecostal. Dr. Haustein has previously researched his faith and rise to power. I ask him how Pentecostals ended up as top politicians in the country. (more…)
A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to speak at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg about science and miracles. I argue that we can know that miraculous healings occur for real based on scientifically inexplicable cures after prayer (SICAP) that physicians identify. The audience consisted mainly of skeptics and so we had some interesting and constructive Q&A towards the end of the lecture.
Originally posted at PCPJ.
I used to think that Pentecostalism started with the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles 1906, preceded by events at Charles Fox Parham’s Bethel Bible College in Kansas 1901. From the US, Pentecostalism then spread rapidly across the world, impacting Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America so that it became the global phenomenon we know of today.
I know realize that I was severely wrong.
To be fair, the Azusa revival had a tremendous impact and is surely among the roots of Pentecostalism. But it’s not the only one. In fact, it is not the earliest. Frank Bartleman, one of American Pentecostalism’s most important pioneers (and a pacifist), acknowledged that “The present world-wide revival was rocked in the cradle of little Wales. It was ‘brought up in India, following; becoming full-grown in Los Angeles later.” While the Welsh revival was quite different than what Pentecostalism became known for, the Indian revival wasn’t. (more…)