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Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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Reading the Bible with the Poor

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Anelisa and Benjamin, two of Christi's three children

My church has a small house group in an area of our town that is experiencing some problems: many are poor, kids hang around in gangs and from time to time there is a riot when the youth destroy people’s cars in protest. We want to reach out to the people in this area and love to invite new people to our group. We especially love to connect with Muslims and share what Jesus has done for us with them.

Two months ago a Romanian family moved nextdoors. I have known this family for years and it ess actually I who helped them get the apartment. They are Roma and has been suffering from discrimination both in Romania and in Sweden. For a long time they were forced to beg on the streets, but the father, Christi, really try to get a job. By the grace of God, he has learned fluent Swedish with hardly any education.

We invited them to our house group. The children have an endless amount of energy, but finally we managed to read the Bible. We read through the Gospel according to Luke, and we had now come to chapter 6. I started to read in Swedish, and Christi continued in Romanian:

Looking at his disciples, Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)

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Seven Deadly Sins of Europe 4: Activist Sloth

As the election to the European Parliament gets closer, I want to highlight some of the biggest European sins that unfortunately are not very present in the political debates. 

The Feeding Programme at Iris Ministries South Africa

The Feeding Programme at Iris Ministries South Africa

Sloth means, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, “disinclination to labour or exertion […] The narrow way stretches wearily before [the slothful] and his soul grows sluggish and torpid at the thought of the painful lifejourney. The idea of right living inspires not joy but disgust, because of its laboriousness.” Sloth is sinful laziness, the slothful is ignorant of the needs of the world and passive when other need their help. It isn’t rest from activism, but refusal to even start being active in the first place. And this is definitely something the European Union is guilty of when it comes to foreign aid.

When discussing aid giving, we have to remember that according to Jesus, generosity shouldn’t be measured in how much you give but how much you have left. While others were impressed of the big money the rich were able to donate in Luk 21:1-4, Jesus pointed out that the two coins a widow gave was all she had, and thus she gave more. It easy to think that the rich give a lot when you see the big numbers they are able to spare, but if you look at what they still keep for themselves it’s usually not as impressive.

According to Concord Europe, the member countries of the European Union gives around 50 billion euros every year to foreign aid. One could think that’s a lot of money – and indeed it helps a lot of people – but since the total GDP of the EU is 16 trillion euros, the amount of aid is actually minimal. Many European countries, together with other rich nations, pledged in 1970 that they would give at least 0,7 % of their GDP, but 40 years later only a few keep this promise.

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Eight Things You Should Know about the #CARcrisis 

  1. There’s a hashtag called #CARcrisis. It’s used on Twitter.
  2. It has nothing to do with cars. It’s about the crisis in the Central African Republic, a republic in central Africa that has about the same size as Ukraine.
  3. The CAR crisis is one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophe on the planet right now. Due to the ongoing conflict, thousands have died, hundreds of thousands are refugees, millions need urgent humanitarian assistance.
  4. The UN fears that the conflict soon will escalate into a genocide. Similar hate propagande that was used in the Rwandan genocide is used in CAR today.
  5. The people that may commit the genocide are mostly Christians. And the victims are mostly Muslims. Yeah, sorry if I turned your prejudices on their heads there.
  6. The conflict escalated when the Muslim rebel group Seleka took over the government, but they’re not in the government anymore. They left in in January 2014. But the conflict is still going on by ex-Seleka members fighting the mostly Christian militia anti-balaka.
  7. The new president of CAR is a chick, and she’s awesome. Catherine Samba-Panza is committed to peace, justice and women’s rights, and urges both the Muslim and Christian militias to drop their weapons and stop planning genocide.
  8. You can save lives in CAR. Just give a generous amount to World Food Programme and spread the word.

Unbelievable Images from Flooded Mozambique

I quickly mentioned in my last blog post thousands of people have lost their homes and income in Mozambique due to flooding. My spiritual hero Heidi Baker and her organization Iris Global is in the midst of the action, having parts of their own property destroyed as well as seeing their poor friends losing Everything. Heidi writes on Facebook:

My friend Francisco is one of many whose home has been completely flooded due to the torrential rains here in the Northern province. We were able to help relocate him to stay in one of our churches and share in the perfect love of Jesus. Thank you for praying. We love you so much and so appreciate your support and prayers.

Iris volontueer Ali Morgan shares some unbelievable images that depicts the devastation in northern Mozambique. She writes:

These are photos from many of us missionaries here in Pemba over the last few days. It has been heartbreaking to see the poorest of the poor loosing the little they own. Watching the Mamas run through the villages with water well above their waist and their mattresses on their heads with babies drenched on their backs and no escape. Please keep praying for all of us in the floods. Many lives have been lost, roads destroyed, electrictiy doesn’t exist, houses washed away, cars going into rivers and not coming back up… and now our base walls have started falling into the river. Rumors have it that a cyclone is coming our way next. Commanding that one to stop in Jesus name! Pray for all of us at Iris and our friends and neighbors in the villages.

 

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God vs Poverty, part 5: Praying

This is the fifth and final part of my God vs Poverty series.

Once we start praying and working for a better world, there is a risk of struggling in our own strength and power. And since everyone are sinners (Romans 3:10-18), the human way lined with failures, accidents, discouragement and fatigue. The Bible says that through the power of God, we are able to more than in our own force (Philippians 4:13). And that can sometimes be a little bit more dramatic than getting some extra energy as by an invisible vitamin kick. Sometimes, it means walking on water or raising the dead.

The ministry of Jesus and the apostles not only included human deeds but also acts of God, things that only God can do. While they gave money to the poor (John 13:29) and they also used the miraculous gifts of the Spirit to help them. As they combined action with prayer, there was suddenly no limit to what their aid work was able to do.

For example: Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead, which besides being extremely joyful in itself saved her from economic misery (Luke 7:11-17). Jesus also did food miracles out of His compassion for the hungry (Matt. 14:13-21; 15:29-39). His healing miracles had an activist dimension as well; in Mark 10:46-52 He heals a blind beggar, who thus is rescued not only from a life in darkness but also from a life in poverty.

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Compelled by Love – Movie Review

This is my review of Compelled by Love, a new film about Heidi and Rolland Baker and their organization Iris Global. You can watch the movie for free until tomorrow at Bethel TV.

Wow, wow, wow. Compelled by Love is seriously one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It’s radical, passionate, moving, inspiring and awesome, it combines joyful happiness with serious pain and sorrow, and in the end I just sat in awe agreeing completely with Heidi Baker when she said that it’s all about Him – what this film portraits is nothing else than the life of Jesus today in one of the poorest nations in the world. It’s a film about an amazing missionary couple and their organization, yes, and for that very reason it is a film about Christ, because Christ is all they stand for in an amazing way.

The film is 100% Iris. It’s emotional. It’s beautiful. It’s messy. Some professional film makers would perhaps react to the patchwork-style; the film is chronological for only 30 minutes or so, and then holy anarachy is released with a multitude of different messages, themes and stories presented, some of which have already been published in YouTube clips. I love it! Shara Pradhan and her team simply takes the best Iris have directly from the field.

The Bethel and Iris culture (those ministries are basically “married” by now) talk a lot about honor, and this film truly wants to honor the life of Heidi and Rolland Baker. Bill Johnson is interviewed when he states that he simply knows no one who has constantly said “yes” to God the way Heidi has, and while she and Rolland are so extraordinary in that they always, continously, give everything to Him, their passion is multiplied to so many others that see that they are not superheroes but carrier of the divine presence of the Holy Spirit that are available for all of us. The film carefully emphasizes both sides of this paradox – the Bakers are amazing saints and should be recognized as such, but their gifts are not excluded to them but constantly multiplied to those who follow their example as they follow Christ. After all, it is the Mozambiqan bush pastors that have raised over 100 dead people within Iris, not the Bakers.

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How to End Economic Inequality in the Global Church

Church Building in Clau-Clau, South Africa

Church Building in Clau-Clau, South Africa

During this semester I have taken a course in environmental economics at Uppsala University. Our final assignment for the course was to pretend to write an article for the Solutions journal that explores an economic solution to a sustainability problem. I chose to write about how economic inequality is a root cause to many sustainability challenges and argued that the church should start practicing economic equality again just like in Acts 2:44-45. Below is an excerpt (with some added subtitles), and the whole article can be downloaded right here: One Heart and Mind – A Challenge of Redistribution for the Global Church.

Redistribution on the Denominational Level

If the church sees itself as a global body of brothers and sisters equal in value, economic equality across borders is logical. This is not very foreign to Christian practical theology – the only time the New Testament talks about churches giving money to other churches, it is stated that “[t]he goal is equality”.[1]

On the denominational level, the Roman Catholic Church has a unique position. It is one single transnational organization with 1.2 billion members, with most people in the global South and most money in the global North. Because all national jurisdictions are subordinated to the Vatican leadership, redistribution would be easier practically compared to a network of autonomous denominations. Since the current pope, Francis, is Latin American and emphasizes the importance of poverty reduction, social justice and simplicity;[2] internal redistribution of finances may not be a totally foreign idea for the Vatican.

Ideally, ecclesiastical provinces and dioceses should be economically equal, adjusted to population and a certain list of needs like poverty, climate change vulnerability, special interests of the Church, etc. This would result in that churches in developing countries generally becoming slightly richer than their Western counterparts.

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Why Santa Shouldn’t be a Penguin, but a Dead Penguin

Santa

Santa

Earlier this week Aisha Harris wrote an article about how confused she was as a child since Santa Claus who was sitting in the malls and who was present in the television shows was white, but the Santa who visited her African-American home was black. She argues that the normative white male Santa is problematic and argues that Santa instead should be a penguin, that people of all colours can relate to. Megan Kelly from ultra-conservative Fox News got frustrated and argued that Santa has to be white and that Jesus was white, which of course He wasn’t.

Initially I liked the idea of a penguin Santa, and there’s already a lot of pictures of her/him, but then I thought – why do we need Santa? Today Santa is king of consumerism, speeding up environmental destruction like crazy in order to give stuff primarily to rich people. As I say in my campaign video Selling Christmas (below), Jesus’ model of generosity was about selling stuff and give the money to the poor, while the Christmas generosity is about buying stuff to give to the rich. An awful way to celebrate the birth of the homeless Saviour.

Santa is thus a not very good represntative for S:t Nicholas either, since he gave gifts to the poor children so that they would survive, not playstations or mascara. So I’d say we kill Santa. Replace him with Jesus, the Middle Eastern version, and share His Gospel about justice and eternal life. And give your money to Unicef or Iris Relief instead of buying unnecessary stuff. Merry Christmas!

God vs Poverty, part 4: Liberating

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.

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God vs Poverty, part 3: Working

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!

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Selling Christmas

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!

Shopping Jesus, from Soul Thoughts

Shopping Jesus, from Soul Thoughts

How to Help the Victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan

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

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.

Please donate today to help them reach people left homeless, hungry and vulnerable (£,€ or $).

Image: UNICEF

Image: UNICEF

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.

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Surprise Sithole on poverty, aid and how it feels to raise the dead

Mr Sithole and me

Mr Sithole and me

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:

Risk of Genocide in the Central African Republic

Soldiers in CAR

Soldiers in CAR

Today UN officials announced that the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) may escalate to a genocide. Since the Seleka rebels preformed a coup in March, the situation has turned chaotic – women are raped, children are killed, and violent hostility between Christians and Muslims is growing. Eugene Richard Gasana, Rwanda’s UN ambassador, said “I had the impression it is like in 1994 at home.”

Doctors without borders have been working in CAR for several years, helping the sick, wounded and dying. Over and over again they have tried to sound the alarm for the horrible humanitarian crisis, but unfortunately the world has been passive. Please give a generous gift so that they can continue to save lives. And pray eagerly for peace and justice in CAR. Thank you!

God vs Poverty, part 2: Giving

This is as the title suggests the second part of my God vs Poverty series.

Rich folks are experts on producing arguments why we shouldn’t give to the poor. Have you also heard Christians using this Bible verse as Bible proof for inaction:

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Cor 9:7

Was Paul’s point really that if you are a grumpy, greedy Scrooge McDuck, God is perfectly fine with that? No, of course Paul wants us to be cheerful givers, and he states in the next verse that we will be poorly rewarded in Heaven if we aren’t generous on earth, but his point is that we cannot force people to be generous. Giving to the poor still is our duty though: to refuse to give to the needy even if you’re able to, is sinful (Deut 15:9).

Another argument against giving to the poor is an unbiblical one: aid doesn’t work. This is both applied to foreign aid and giving to beggars on the streets. In the former case, people blame corruption and other structural problems, or they simply state that aid undermines incentives to work. In the latter case, people blaim drugs and other social problems, or state that rewarding begging undermines incentives to work.
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