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The charismatic revival has not just been about signs and wonders, but about worship and music as well. Similar to previous revivals like Methodism and Salvationism, early Pentecostalism had a lot of zeal and passion in their hymns, with a renewed focus on the Holy Spirit and miracles. The African American influences and inspiration from the mission field also impacted the tone of the music so that it became more inspirational.
Things changed even more during the Western charismatic renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, as the Jesus movement incorporated popular, hippie tunes into their worship. This in turn impacted the Vineyard which combined the contemporary style with a focus on singing to God rather than just about him. Today, charismatic churches like Hillsong in Australia and Bethel in California are without doubt the main influences when it comes to contemporary worship music and are really popular especially among the youth.
This style of worship is not without criticism. Songs are commercialized, the concert-like performances are expensive and the worship leaders may receive too much focus. Popular worship lyrics that emphasize God’s majesty and power are criticized for portraying him as too distant and dominant, while songs about human struggles and doubts are rare. (more…)
“Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:19-20)
As Scotland is voting for indepencence, many Europeans try to figure out what the consequenses would be if the Scots did say yes (even if the no-side has been leading in the polls). Would other areas like Catalonia or the Basque country gain fuel for their fight for independence as well? Would the nationalism that sparks European fascism and racism just increase, with devastating consquences? Or would everything just proceed as normal?
When I was in the UK, I asked some people from the Jesus Army what they thought about the Scottish independence election. As Jesus people who focus on the Kingdom of God rather than earthly governments, neither had very strong opinions – even though one of them said he could understand the nationalists since he himself was of welsh origin, but he also had studied English history and language and Oxford and explained to me that the UK really is a mixture of so many people groups, linguistic influences and nationalities. And even if the Scots and Welsh are not as pluralistic as the English, they too are children of Adam just like everyone else.
From a Christian perspective, nationalism is very artificial. The Old Testament recognizes that there are different people groups, but they are all related to each other and there’s nothing wrong with Ruth the Moabite to become the grandmother of David or the Gentiles being included into the Kingdom of God. Paul says that we are citizens of Heaven, he is a Jew to the Jew but a Gentile to the Gentiles and he encouraged Jewish Christians to submit to the Roman dictator rather than fight for independence as zealots.
Nationalism is just an idea, and ideas change. In my country, we used to view people differently dependent on which county (which are called “lands”) they were born in, but now we all call ourselves Swedes. In the future perhaps we’ll all call ourselves Europeans, who knows. I don’t find one artificial definition better than the other. What is important is that we belong to the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom is not dependent on race, nationality or language but whether we have given our lives to Jesus Christ.
The “Great Commission” is not so great. I mean, of course everything Jesus says is awesome, but we are making a huge error if we define missions only based on Matthew 28:18-20, basically because we are not given so much information about missions there. Jesus says: “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Now, to understand what “everything I have commanded you” means, we obviously have to read the rest of the gospels! Missions is not only about baptizing people and telling them what to believe, it’s about raising up a non-violent army of passionate disciples that are willing to do the stuff Jesus commanded us to do.
If we stick to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus starts teaching discipleship in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7). This is not a collection of random sayings of Jesus, it has a common theme: actions. Radical actions; love your enemies, give to the poor, do not store up treasures on earth, do not judge, do not look at someone with lust, etc. This is all part of the Great Commission – we are supposed to live like this, and those who we baptize are supposed to live like this. Thus, missions include peacemakting, social justice and holiness.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks you for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Ramone Romero is posting the most beautiful, heart-breaking and hopeful artwork and poems I’ve ever seen, on his blog Wheeping Jeremiahs. He expresses prophetic tears over the political idolatry of many American Christians. I’ll let some of his paintings and poems speak for themselves:
My children! My children!
Put down your flags!
I am not calling you to carry
the righteousness of any nation,
but to carry the Cross!
I am not calling you to defeat your enemies,
but to love them as I loved you.
“Do not listen to those who prophesy
in accordance with your flags,
for I have not sent them;
they are prophesying lies in My name
and are following a ‘Christ’ they have made
in their own image—an ‘anti-christ.’
“They do not listen to Me when I speak,
nor do they turn from their pride,
but instead continue to follow their passions.
They have become like brute beasts,
unreasoning creatures of instinct
who revile what they do not understand.
“Do not follow the beast,
but repent and return to the Lamb!” (more…)
In his excellent book The Myth of a Christian Nation, Greg Boyd clearly shows that neither the US nor any other state can be Christian:
As we have noted, many Christians believe that America is, or at least once was, a Christian nation. We have argued that this notion is inaccurate for the simple reason that Christian means “Christlike”, and there never was a time when America as a nation has acted Christlike. Indeed, we have argued that it’s impossible for any version of the kingdom of the world to be Christlike for the simple reason that they participate in a system of dominion that necessarily places its trust in the power of the sword.
I totally agree. The church and the state should be seperate since the Kingdom of God is “not of this world”, the cross cannot partner with the tank. No Christian values can be enforced on people because enforcement is contrary to Christian behaviour. Jesus said that unlike political rulers, Christians should be servants instead of exercising authority. (Mt 20:25-28).
Thus, a Christian president is not necessarily a better president than a non-Christian. Rather, a Christian plumber is a better Christian than a Christian president. This is why I don’t see the victory of the Christian Barack Obama over the Mormon Mitt Romney as a giant triumph for the Kingdom of God or something like that. But I know that many American Christians think that church and state should be married and that God’s will is that the US should be a Christian nation. Thus, it is striking how many of them supported Mitt Romney in this election.
When Obama won the 2008 elections, lots of evangelicals tried to “prove” that he was a Muslim. Unlike the citizenship conspiracy theories, the Muslim accusation didn’t try to disprove the president juridically but morally – the underlying assumption was that a Muslim president is a bad president, who is unable to support Christian values (some even argued that he would implement sharia laws). Needless to say, the arguments for the Muslim Obama are horribly bad since he’s been a practioning Christian all his life, but still 20% of Americans believed it in the end of 2008.
One of the best and most inspiring books I’ve read concerning Kingdom Politics is Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. In it, they write about what it means to pledge allegiance to a slaughtered Lamb and to cultivate political imagination and creativity in a world filled with violence and hatred. Because of the American presidential election this year, Claiborne and Haw are going on a tour to campaign for Jesus. Below are some excerpts from interviews with Claiborne at Read the Spirit and Sojourners:
The whole idea of Jesus for President really started back before the 2004 election when we began thinking and talking seriously about making a faithful Christian witness to the State. For years, we had read books, studied this and eventually Chris Haw and I were led to create Jesus for President. It was released as a book for the 2008 election and now  we’re back with a book and a DVD that was filmed in many of the places we stopped along the road with this message.
Even though we’ve been working on this for some years now, we realize that this message is even more relevant than when we began. This is post-Religious Right America and we are seeing a whole lot of evangelicals and political misfits who are trying to find their way to new decisions about faith and politics. The old evangelical and Religious Right messages just don’t work anymore for a lot of us. And I know that the questions we are raising today are really touching people’s hearts.
There are a lot of good things that have been stirring up conversations across the country. The Occupy movement raised people’s awareness that 1 percent of people in our world own way more than their share of the world’s stuff. Now, people are more aware than ever of the deep and growing disparity between the rich and the poor. You can’t read the Bible and not realize that situation matters to God.
I’ve written a lot about how inspired I am by the life and teaching of John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement. The Kingdom of God was the most central concept in his theology, just as it also was the most central concept in the teachings of Jesus. And what Wimber showed quite clearly was that the Kingdom cannot by any means be separated from signs and wonders.
The reason for this is that miracles manifest power. When God does impossible things like raising the dead or multiplying food, it becomes evident that He is an almighty King, and that He alone can save us from sin and death. Therefore, it is not surprising that the gospels tell us how Jesus and the disciples preached about the Kingdom and healed the sick at the same time (Mt 4:23, Lk 9:2). “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (1 Cor 4:20)
Wimber’s teaching got a huge impact. The Kingdom of God is central not only in the Vineyard but also in other Charismatic movements like New Wine, Bethel Church and Global Awakening. However, I’m afraid that they have missed a very important aspect of the Kingdom that is quite evident in the Scriptures. The Kingdom of God is of course also a political term, with political consequences in our lives.
John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement who went home to the Lord in 1997, is one of my heroes in faith. As a man dedicated to combine signs and wonders with evangelism and social justice, he is of great inspiration to me. The text below is taken from an article by Jon Panner which can be found here.
“Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:7-8).
A president of an evangelical seminary once introduced John Wimber with these words: “John Wimber is the greatest theologian of the 20th century.” I nearly burst with laughter. John looked at me, winked, stood up, shuffled slowly to the microphone and opened with, “Really, I’m just a fat saxophone player trying to get to heaven.”
At moments like these, he seemed like our collective grampa. His Santa Claus demeanor reassured us, “Kids, I’ve read the end of the book. Guess what? We win!” (more…)