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On a war rally in a Moscow stadium last Friday, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said that his “special military operation” in Ukraine, which he refuses to call a war, reminded him of the words of Jesus in John 15:13: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
This is just a few days after a pregnant woman who was damaged by Russian bombing in the occupied city of Mariupol died along with her unborn baby. Ukrainian authorities claim that over 100 children have died in the war as of yet, and although the numbers are difficult to verify at this point there is no doubt that Putin has killed children in this conflict.
One of them was named Alisa Perebyinis. She was nine years old, and her father found out that she had died along with his wife and 18-year old son on Twitter.
To kill children in a pointless, unlawful and unrighteous war is despicable in and of itself. But Putin goes even further than that, claiming that his sinful acts are an expression of Biblical love.
He quoted someone who never used violence against anyone and who taught us to love our enemies, Jesus Christ, in order to justify slaughtering innocent people – many of which are Christians!
Putin is of course far from the only politician who has religious rhetoric in order to motivate people to war. George W. Bush claimed that God told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and called the war on terrorism a “crusade“.
Even the Nazis during World War Two quoted passages like Romans 13 in order to make people submit to Hitler.
Jesus warned that there would be false prophets who claim to follow him but refuse to do his will (Matthew 7:21). He said that there would be those who persecute Christians who actually think that they serve God (John 16:2).
Whether Putin is deluded enough to actually think that he is loving people as he bombs children is impossible to know. Perhaps he hates God and just uses religious language to gain support.
In either case, the Bible makes it clear that all those who take the Lord’s name in vain to justify their own evil actions will stand accountable before him on the last day. God will restore all those who fell victim to injustice, and invite us to an eternal life with him without any wars, lies or oppression.
All thanks to the one who truly gave his life because of his love for us: Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
So I’m in a relationship now, which is exciting and overwhelming and horrifying and wonderful. Sarah is a charismactivist with a heart for revival and poverty reduction, a vegan Pentecostal with a global vision for Biblical community-churches that live out the book of Acts. She’s great and I thank God for her every day.
Now, as I’ve written previously I’m really a big fan of celibacy. I have no reason to doubt Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 7:38 about how singleness is “better” than being married. As long as I’ve been a Christian I have found it plausible that a single person can be “undivided” to the Lord in a way that couples can’t (1 Cor 7:33-35).
Now, many would argue that marriage and celibacy are on equal level of both value and sacrifice and that neither is better than the other. I get the impression that this is the official stance of most evangelical and charismatic churches here in Europe at least. Still, in practice, the notion is often that getting a spouse is the priority goal of every Christian’s life and celibacy is the secondary option for those who fail or are uninterested. (more…)
Tomorrow starts a conference I’m co-arranging on Christian community life, with a focus on sharing economic sharing. During worship we will actually sing some songs I’ve written, including this piece based on Ephesians 3:16-21:
Strengthen my inner being with Your Spirit’s power
dwell in my heart and give me faith
Help me grasp how wide and long and high and deep Your love is to me God, root me in love
Fill me completely with all of Your fullness
All the glory be to the One who can
do abundantly more than I even can imagine
through the power that is now in work within me
Glory to Your Name forever
Charismactivist apostle of love Heidi Baker recently visited Sid Roth’s show It’s Supernatural, where she shared testimonies about what God has done in her life and among the poor of Mozambique. The following testimony just gripped my heart, it can be heard from 11:30 onwards in the video:
Every Monday, in Mozambique, I visit my village. It’s just my local village, I like to keep it real – we have 3500 children in our school from there so I like to see their families. And I just sit and hold he poor, spending time loving them…
And on my way back from visiting a mama named Tina, I saw this little, old woman. And she was really poor, you know, her clothes were shredded, and a strange thing was that she was sitting in the sun. And I thought: “Why is this woman sitting in the sun in Mozambique?” It’s hot! At least she should be in the shade.
And I said “What’s your name?” in our local dialect. And she answered me back and said: “I have no name.” And I was undone by that. I thought, how can anyone on earth not be given a name? (more…)
When Jesus said “Love your enemies”, He didn’t add “except terrorists”. On the contrary, it was probably them He had in mind. Charismatic activist Bob Ekblad has written an excellent piece on how Christians should respond to the horrible terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which I quote a large portion of below. I have nothing to add except a little cartoon about Jesus’ amazing enemy love.
How might followers of Jesus respond to this escalation of hatred and violence? Jesus warned his disciples: “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end” (Matthew 24:6). Jesus expects his listeners to be aware that history is heading toward increasing tension and to resist the natural tendencies toward hard- heartedness or violence.
“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:12–14). Anyone listening to Jesus is told to not be fearful, but to get on with the highest priority work—announcing the Gospel of the Kingdom. What is this Gospel?
It most certainly does not include Christians identifying with or justifying swift and effective retaliation, increased surveillance, growing suspicion, incarceration, hatred against Muslims, or fear. When James and John ask Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans who refused them entry as they traveled toward Jerusalem, Jesus rebukes them, saying: “You do not know of what spirit you are of. For the son of man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55–56).
These are the lyrics to a song I wrote just a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t recorded it yet so it’s hard for me to give you the melody, but for now you can at least read the lyrics as a poem:
I Love Jesus, I love Him so
He’s the only one who knows my heart and saves my sinful soul
Of course I love my family, my friends and even foes
But Jesus is my number one forevermore
I love Jesus, I love the Son of God
‘Cause He hangs around with idiots, the losers and the odd
He criticizes people who are self-righteous and proud
And when He sees injustice He gets angry and loud!
I love Jesus, I love what He said
He’s like I’m the way, the truth, the life, the gate, the light, the bread
He debated with the Pharisees and turned them on their heads
And to His disciples He said go and raise the dead!
Love is extremely central to the Gospel: the reason Jesus came to give us eternal life is out of God’s eternal love for our world (Jn 3:16), He said that the greatest commandments in the Old Testament Law are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37-39) Jesus close disciple John just fell in love with Love, and emphasized it like crazy in his writings:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 Jn 4:7-12)
But all love isn’t good love. In the same letter, John warns us for loving things instead of people, creation instead of God: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 Jn 2:15-17)
God has been speaking to me about the Jesus Movement the last couple of months, and I’m planning to do some deeper research of this renewal when I get the time. For you who aren’t aware of it, it sprang up mainly among saved hippies in the 60’s and 70’s and spread from the US to Europe. The Jesus People, or Jesus Freaks as they gladly called themselves, were passionate charismatics who preached the Gospel in the power of signs and wonders while many of them also were pacifist peacemakers and radical supporters of social justice – many of them practiced community of goods. In other words, it was a Holy Spirit Activism movement!
As I read and watch clips about the Jesus Movement, I get the impression of a theology that is in all ways charismatically evangelical, but expressed in a very attractive and simple way. A review of a book about the movement simply dubbed it “sweetness”. I like that! The Jesus Freaks were radical, zealous and crazy, but above all that also very sweet.
I encountered this sweetness in another context two days ago in Stockholm, Sweden. My friend had invited me to a prayer meeting that he hosted together with a travelling team from Iris Global. Iris Global is, as those of you who follow this blog should know by now, also a movement that combines signs and wonders with social justice, and these folks were no exception.
As promised, here comes the first part of the new official sequel to God vs Wealth, creatively called God vs Poverty. While the former video series discussed whether a Christian should be rich or not (and found out that the answer was “not”), this series will look at what the Bible says about poverty reduction. It was filmed when I visited Iris South Africa (with a lot of wonderful children “helping” me with the shooting) and consists of five parts:
In this first part, I argue that poverty reduction must be based on love and that one of the main economic problems in the world is that the rich don’t know the poor. South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world and the reason is of course that the rich separated themselves and refused to get to know the poor. When people from different socio-economic classes become friends, it will be impossible for the wealthy to ignore their needs and problems of the needy. Our generosity should not be excluded to people we know of course, but if we only know people with our own socio-economic status, something is terribly wrong. (more…)
As I’ve mentioned previously, Iris Relief is right now helping Syrian refugees in Jordan, bringing food, love and the power of the living God. On their facebook feed as well as through other sources, the team publish several testimonies of hope and relief in the midst of unimaginable suffering. Here are some of those testimonies:
I have been been brought to tears today as I sat with the Syrian Refugees listening to their tragic and horrific stories of what war has cost them. Love looks like something! – Daniel
Our Iris Relief Middle East team had so much favor today and made it into the refugee camp in Zaa-tari where 100,000 refugees are staying. We listened to horrendous stories of imprisonment and torture. We saw inner healings as well as many physical healings as we prayed at each tent. The indigenous Jor-danians said that the kind of breakthrough that we saw today has never happened before. These desperate people are absolutely beautiful and Papa God has broken our hearts for them – Christian
Sitting in a UNHCR tent w/ a family of Sy-rian refugees who fled war only 4 days before, I was blown away by this muffin. At her young age she has lived through bombs, bullets and 2 massacres. 1 of 400 ppl and another of 500 ppl. Looking deep into her eyes, holding her in my arms and echoing each other’s giggles I could only lean back on the goodness of God. No matter how bad the circumstance, his love is ALWAYS enough. Always. His beauty is found in the hope he brings to the hurting, the life he restores to the broken-hearted and the fact that he powerfully pursues us wherever we’re at. We’ve seen so much pain, so much devastation but I’ve never been more in love or filled with more hope. – Cassandra (more…)
Dear friends of Iris around the world,
We in Iris continue to face more need, challenge, opposition, helplessness and perplexity than we can bear, yet daily God shows up and we soldier on. We are jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Cor. 4:7). We often feel under great pressure, condemned to failure. But we have learned that this happens that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God, who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:9).
We cannot overstate how much more help we need in every way. We need administrators, organizers, technicians, engineers, mechanics, builders, doctors, nurses, teachers, farmers, computer and Internet geeks, donors, etc., ad infinitum, along with every kind of spiritual gifting. The reason is that Iris is not simply a church, or a children’s center, or a relief effort, or a Bible school, or a mission training base, but all these and more as one example of an entire Kingdom environment. We exist to demonstrate an all-encompassing love that flows from God’s heart, a love that the unsaved have never seen before. We are here to seek and save the lost, and in the process give them a foretaste of heaven and our unshakeable inheritance that is to come.
We came to Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, to prove the Gospel, both in our own hearts and lives and among the neediest people we could find. And the Gospel has taken root all around us. Churches are being added to our number weekly, mounting into the thousands. After so many years of cruel colonialism, communism and civil war, the overall climate of Mozambique has changed, deeply affected, we believe, by the Gospel. It has recently been voted one the most peaceful countries in Africa. Its economic growth rate is amazing. Major energy resources are being discovered.
Yesterday I was having dinner with rock musician and revivalist Simon Adahl. He and his close friend Orjan Armgren are two down-to-earth, humble people that experience countless miracles. I literally mean countless. I have attended four of their meetings where they share testimonies non-stop for a couple of hours. Still, Simon had so much to tell that he invited me to his house so that he could share even more.
Here are a few examples of what they have experienced:
– Once, Simon passed by a man he’d never met and suddenly said “The answer is Estonia”. The man was stunned. He explained that minutes earlier, he had prayed to the Lord “Where should my aid relief go, Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania?”
– Another time he called a man and shouted prophetically in the phone “Yes, you are My evangelist!!” Right then, the man had aimed a knife at his artery to kill himself. Now, he ended those plans and returned to God.
– A non-Christian lady came over to Simon and shared some troubles she had. Simon then suddenly said that he saw her as a young girl, running on a grass field with a kite, filled with joy. Orjan, who also was there, said “I hear the song ‘This Little Light of Mine'”. The woman immediately went down on her knees shouting “I want to be saved!” It turned out that they had pointed out her favourite activity and favourite song during the happiest time in her life.
Tragically, preachers and evangelists in the Pentecostal and charismatic movements are often seen as people hungry for power, who control the masses through promises of supernatural encounters only to gain money and status for themselves. Even though the accusation sometime is exaggerated, there are indeed many genuine cases of manipulation and control among us, which is extremely sad and stupid. This is defenitely not something that the Holy Spirit produces; and thus, it contradicts true charismatic living.
The basis of Christianity is love. God is love (1 John 4:8) and He loves us more than we can understand (Eph. 3:19, Rom 8:38-39). Although people have turned away from Him and sin, He loves us so much that He sent Jesus to give us eternal life through He died our death (John 3:16, Rom 5:8). God forgives our sins; by his grace we are saved and receive eternal life, not by earning it with good deeds, but by God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-9).
This grace is the basis not only for our salvation but also for the supernatural gifts that Jesus used to spread the Kingdom of God and instructed his disciples to use, they are gifts given by grace (greek charismata, grace gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4)) that we can not earn or deserve, but we recieve them freely by God’s grace (Ephesians 4:7). (more…)