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The Simple Tip from Jesus that Transformed My Life
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:
Easter Devotions for Self-Quarantined Saints
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…)
My Thoughts on Hell
I was recently interviewed on the Rethinking Hell podcast who talked with me on how I got saved and what my thoughts on life after death look like. As I was born again, I quickly realized that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and that we cannot live without him. Eternal life is a gift, not something we already possess:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)
“Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Jesus… has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tim 1:10)
Thus, from Day One of my Christian journey I’ve believed that immortality is conditional, not universal: it is something imparted to us through the grace of God in Jesus Christ. This means that those who reject the grace of God will not inherit eternal life but will instead die, and be dead forever:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10:28)
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Mt 25:46)
“He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes as an example of what is coming on the ungodly.” (2 Pet 2:6)
This of course goes against the Platonic idea that the soul is innately immortal and that hell therefore would be some alternative form of eternal life, but in torment rather than in bliss. This idea, known as traditionalism or tormentalism, I’ve never found any strong support for in the Bible.
More on this in the podcast episode, which you can listen to here!
The Problem With Prosperity
The prosperity gospel, or “health and wealth” preaching, originated about 70 years ago in the United States. At various tent meetings connected to Voice of Healing and similar ministries, preachers like Oral Roberts and A. A. Allen started to teach things like financial sowing and reaping, the prosperous power of faith and that God wants us to be rich.
Their theology was influenced by Baptist theologian E. W. Kenyon, who in turn was highly influenced with ideas from New Thought. This American movement is quite similar to New Age and emphasizes, among other things, the power of the mind to influence physical reality by, for example, naming and claiming health and wealth before it actually has materialized.
Sounds familiar? (more…)
Five Weird Ways People Deny That Jesus Was a Refugee
In 2016, I released a book in Swedish together with pastor Stefan Swärd called Jesus Was Also a Refugee. We commented the recent migration debate, providing the biblical teaching on loving, welcoming and blessing strangers (Lev 19:33-34, Mt 25:35).
I was not at all prepared for the huge amounts of Christians who would object to the book title. “Jesus was certainly not a refugee!” The same thing happened as the Christian Post published my Christmas reflection, inspired by Shane Claiborne, urging people to welcome refugees as they would welcome Christ. The comment section on CP’s Facebook page overflooded with arguments against the asylum status of our Savior and his parents.
Most of these arguments are bad. I mean, really bad. Here are the five weirdest ones I’ve come across so far: (more…)
What About the Good Rich People in the Bible?
Guest post by Stephen Waldron. Originally published on his blog at Theology Corner.
In some parts of the Bible, rich people are portrayed as the worst kind of criminals. They grind vulnerable people into dust, and they are the enemies of all that is good and holy. But wait…
Surely you’ve heard there are also good rich people in the Bible. So the problem of wealth must relate to some sort of internal sin, a “problem of the heart.”
It is true that one thing that Jesus points out is that people’s hearts are often in the wrong place. They are. But the point Jesus was making by linking hatred to murder and greed to wealth wasn’t “The tangible expression of wickedness isn’t all that bad after all.”
Rather, his point was that the moral sickness runs much deeper than his listeners might have suspected. The wealthy are not off the hook just yet. Their greed only compounds an already unjust situation. (more…)
Trump’s Nuclear Threats to North Korea and a Horrible Way to Read the Bible
Originally published at PCPJ.
I was holding my breath the other week when Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump – probably among the most unreliable political leaders of this age – were waging a war of words. Trump said that if Kim continues to threaten the United States they will be met with “fire and fury”, a statement he later said “wasn’t tough enough” (but what could be tougher?). The North Korean leadership almost immediately responded with threats of nuking the American colony of Guam, which likely would start the first nuclear war ever.
Thankfully, Kim later announced that he’s standing by, waiting for the next move by the “stupid yankees”. And I was able to breath again. But I’m taking short breaths, and pray that these madmen will come to their senses.
And then I stumble upon the comments by Southern Baptist Megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, who as this crisis was at its peak boldly proclaimed that “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un”. So how does Pastor Jeffress defend this claim?
“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”
Now, it’s important to understand that Jeffress isn’t claiming any personal revelation here: he claims that based on the Bible alone, specifically Romans 13, one can reach the conclusion that God wants Trump to kill Kim. But Romans 13 emphasizes that all governments have the same authority: (more…)
No, the Bible Doesn’t Claim that the Israelites Killed All the Canaanites
Originally published at PCPJ.
Quite a few media outlets have recently claimed that science has disproven the Bible. They point to a recent study showing that the DNA of modern Lebanese people match 90 % with the DNA of five Canaanites that died 3 700 tears ago. They then go on claiming that the Bible says that all the Canaanites were killed as Joshua and the Israelites conquered their land.
The titles of the articles show that their authors think that according to the Bible, Canaanites were “wiped out”. The Telegraph states “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out”. The Independent agrees: “Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon”. And the Daily Mail argues “Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible’s claim that the Canaanites were wiped out: Study says their genes live on in modern-day Lebanese people”
There’s only one problem. The Bible doesn’t say that the Canaanites were wiped out.
Judges, you know the book that comes right after Joshua, clearly states that there were “Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills” (Jud 1:9) and “Canaanites living in Hebron” (v. 10). Canaanites were around in Israel around the time of Solomon (1 Kings 9:16) and even in the time of Jesus (Matt 15:22). (more…)
The Zacchaeus Story: Salvation, Miracles and Activism
In this recording from some months ago, I teach at Kettering Jesus Army on what Zacchaeus’ story in Luke 19 implies for us when it comes to encountering Jesus, the supernatural and generosity for the poor. I also share some testimonies about miracles in our lifetime.
The Jerusalem Project: Starting a Christian Community from Scratch
Originally published at PCPJ.
The Jerusalem Project is based on the radical idea that biblical followers of Jesus should live like the followers of Jesus in the Bible. Specifically, we don’t think that the community of goods that Jesus practiced with his disciples (John 13:29) and that they then continued to practice in the apostolic church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45), was a mistake or has gone obsolete. On the contrary, since Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and the apostles are the foundation of the church (Eph 2:19), we believe we should live like them.
Most Christians would agree that the apostles has ultimate authority on who Jesus is, what he did for us and what he wants us to do for him. In fact, this authority is so great that the words they or their associates wrote down in letters and books are considered to be the Word of God!
That’s basically as much authority one can get.
But if they have this much authority, shouldn’t we view their lives and works as expressing God’s will as much as their words? Not that they would be sinless, but they had spend a lot of time with the sinless Son of God. He had taught them not only doctrines but practices, not just orthodoxy but orthopraxy. And so, they continued to heal the sick, preach the Gospel and have everything in common just as Jesus had trained them. (more…)
Bring Forth the Apostles and Prophets!
In Ephesians 4, Paul describes the five ministry gifts that will lead to the church:
But to each one of us was given grace according to the gift that Christ measured out … And he gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. They would equip the saints for the work of service to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to the measure of the adult population of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:7, 11-13).
In my Swedish house church, we once looked at this passage and realised that not only are the apostles and prophets extremely rare in the West, but when they still show up, we become terrified. Especially if they dare to call themselves apostle or prophet. This probably stems from the prevalence of cessationism in Protestantism, which elevated teaching as a major component of church life while prophecy and apostleship were viewed as obselete.
Today, most European churches have abandoned cessationism, and many realise that the Bible does not limit the title “apostle” to the twelve guys closest to Jesus. Yet, we have incredibly difficulties using the terms apostle and prophet. We look with skepticism when, for example, Christians from Africa are not afraid to liberally use these terms for describing their leaders. (more…)
A Culture of Hospitality
For the last couple of years I have been spending a lot of time helping the homeless. I have taken them into my home, helping them get a job, taking their children to school and arguing for their rights and dignity in the media. I’ve protested when they have been mistreated or deported and I’ve celebrated God’s victory over Satan with them on street parties. Also, I’ve been frustrated with them over the fact that most churches and Christian homes won’t take them in.
There are four million homeless in Europe and eleven million empty houses. Not only that, their are at least 14 million evangelical Christians who could easily fit the homeless into their living rooms and guest rooms. The Bible emphasises that hospitality is something all Christians should engage in:
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13).
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2).
Jesus Church: Selling Everything
This was originally posted on Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.
In this third and final blog post of my Jesus Church series, I’d like to talk about money. Twice, John points out that the ‘Jesus Church’ had a central fund that Judas was responsible for (John 12:6, 13:29). The income that the church received, probably from donations (Luke 8:3), seems to have been pooled, and the surplus given to the poor.
This was an obvious practical expression of Jesus’ radical economic teachings.
“Blessed are you who are poor”, he said, “but woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:20, 24). It’s clear that Jesus didn’t want us to be rich.
This is also evident when he said that we should not store up treasures on earth:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Trump, “Illegal” Immigrants and the Bible
Trump has said that refugees the US is receiving legally are “illegal immigrants”. He’s not the only one misusing the term though, I can’t count how many times American Christians have told me that the biblical commands to welcome and care for the stranger don’t apply to “illegal immigrants”. It’s time to stop using those words and treat everyone equally as human beings created in the image of God.