Monthly Archives: April 2008

It’s horrible – and yet not the end! – A view on divorce.

Newsweek has the last couple of weeks spend quite some leverage on issues of divorce as the looked back on what they called the “Divorce Generation”. It was 1968 when my (our) dad left home with a good friend to the family. I remember my reaction; although I was loathed by the way my father had been treating us in the family, his departure shook our existence because families (couples) did not divorce and especially not in the Southern part of Holland where I came from and where people had a Catholic background.

The shame and isolation one went through was unprecedented and seems to be totally ill-founded when compared with the consequences of divorce and the way we look at it today. However, since then I have been confronted with many different divorces and people getting together again after having been divorced.

In my hometown everyone knew about the divorce and people showed little understanding for the consequences in the lives of the members of the family. After I became a Christian, the hate towards my father for leaving us and his negative influence in our family (I cannot describe this here in public), was dealt with by Jesus Christ and in a miraculous way I got healed from wounds on the inside of my being. The young kid who had to grow up too quickly, too soon and who had lost his years as a child playing was brought back to life!

The whole concept of divorce has since then played a major role in my life as I met and got involved in many different counseling situations addressing this issue. The sanctity of marriage and the depth of commitment meant to be given and experienced in it have directed my mind on this matter to such depth that I even today refuse to watch a film where adultery and divorce are portrayed as entertainment. The fact is that there has been a radical shift in attitudes toward divorce in a matter of only a few decades. I realize that. Having seen it up close now so many times, I have gotten used to divorce as a fact of contemporary life. But I have not changed my theology of divorce. I still see it as a terrible thing. Unavoidable in many situations—but still terrible.

I checked the figures from the Barna Group which does intensive research and polls in many different areas and who specify decisions and lifestyles by Christians…their information shows a chocking reality on the area of divorce among Christians. Personally I think that we in the church need to rise up to the occasion and talk, teach and pray more on this and many other matters where we as Christians have gone astray from the specific guidelines God gives us in the Bible. Without trying to put blame on people who have already gone through divorce and who are aching under the trauma of it, I still want to say that divorce is serious and horrible! A person who had gone through two different divorces came to an acquaintance of me and said: “You know what I want?” he asked, with tears streaming down his cheeks. “I want to hear two things from the church. One is that divorce is a horrible thing, that it is one of the biggest failures a human being can experience. The other is that this is not the end of my life—that God may still have good things in store for me.”

That, my friends, is also the Way I see it!

John

Population Segment

Have Been Divorced

No. of

Interviews

All adults

33%

3792

Evangelical Christians

26%

339

Non-evangelical born again Christians

33%

1373

Notional Christians

33%

1488

Associated with non Christian faith

38%

197

Atheist or agnostic

30%

269

All born again Christians

32%

1712

All who were not born again Christians

33%

2080

Protestant

34%

1997

Catholic

28%

875

African-American

36%

464

Hispanic

31%

458

Asian

20%

128

Conservative

28%

1343

Moderate

33%

1720

Liberal

37%

474

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Outsourcing – Wombs for rent, globalization gone mad?

Although I have read articles about it since the beginning of 2000, I cannot refrain from thinking that it is now taking off like never before. In a time when many decide for abortions to get rid of unwanted babies, others go to extremes to secure themselves of children, yet, outside their own wombs! The latest fad is on its way and takes the concept of outsourcing beyond its boundaries:

Busy career women are hiring wombs of other mothers to carry their babies rather than take time off work. Businesswomen, models, athletes and actresses in the US are choosing for ‘social surrogacy’ to help cope with career pressure.

Other women are applying to clinics to rent wombs to avoid painful childbirth and stretch marks. One 35 – year old Californian mother of three sons hired a woman to carry her fourth child to ensure she had a daughter and to protect her career prospects.

· Too busy with your career; rent a womb!

· Too expensive to deal with national systems; rent a womb in India!

· Afraid of loosing your figure or of the nasty birthmarks; rent a womb, be a mum, and keep your shape all at the same time!

Newsweek, Marie Claire, The Wall Street Journal and lately even Oprah have addressed this issue. Is this yet another example of third-world exploitation? Is it globalization gone mad? A movement is set into system where underprivileged and/or underpaid women are being used for the ultimate outsourcing, Although most articles deal with women in India (great healthcare available with the English language as great asset), another group which is targeted is found among the women married to American (low-paid) military man.

The interest to seek such social surrogacy is most evident in India and other poor countries, since their systems avoid the legal red tape and the potential legal aspects and consequences of relationships, and agreements gone sour.

What is there more to say about it? This is for me yet another side of the excesses of career thinking, consumerism, and a self centered, self-serving society which has gone mad.

Well, probably you have your own conclusions… What do you think of this?

John

World Values Survey – another way of looking at cultures!

For some years now I have closely observed the developments and studies in the World Values Survey. I find them interesting as I encounter the different values in the multi-cultural setting of New Life Church in Stockholm, Sweden. Let me start off by showing you some characteristics and I will take more time writing about them in my next blogs!

This study from 1981 – 2006 is called “A Human Development View on Value Change” Christian Welzel, Switzerland.

The Vertical graph:

1. The left Traditional/Secular values graph (down left) reflects the contrast between societies in which religion is very important and those in which it is not. Societies near the traditional pole emphasize the importance of

· parent-child ties and respect to authority,

· along with absolute standards and traditional family values,

· reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide.

2. Societies with secular-based-on-reason values (the top left) have the opposite position on all of these topics.

The horizontal graph

The second dimension of this graph deals with Survival and Self-expression values. The tremendous wealth that has built up in different societies during the past generation means that an increasing part of the population has grown up taking survival for granted.

1. The left side, survival values; economic and physical security. Trying to make ends meet; focus on making it for another day.

2. The right side; we see that priorities in life have shifted from an emphasis on economic and physical security toward an increasing emphasis on subjective well-being, self-expression and quality of life. Studies show that focuses have shifted from Traditional toward Secular-based on reason values, in almost all industrial societies.

Take a look at Sweden (where I am living at the moment) and most of the Western countries (including Japan)!

· The strong independence and individualism make us focus on our own immediate problems, often cutting us off from our own past as well as the history of our society.

· We do not think about the traditions that have formed us or about the larger problems of our society . . . It is oriented to our immediate wants, desires, and emotions.

Just an observation… I will later write about some of the implications!

See you again soon!

John

The light that shines farthest,…

“The light that shines farthest, shines brightest at home.”
”Det ljus som når längst, skiner klarast hemma.”

Oswald Chambers.

We are living in a time of change…where the church becomes secularized, where the Kingdom will be unionized and the Christians de-sacramentized.

We are living in a time of change…

A time where the church becomes secularized, where the Kingdom will be unionized and the Christians de-sacramentized. With astonishment I heard about an article in Dagen, the Christian daily here in Sweden where a special group is targeting the Free Churches to get involved in a union to ensure collective agreements and security.

In my wildest dreams I can fantasize about these kinds of things, by the way; my wife is part of a union as a medical secretary and she has some experience with these matters. It helps her in her wage negotiations as others already have agreed upon the yearly raise and advantages.

Like I said in my wildest dream I can fantasize… let me try:

  • I dream of a union which gives us pastors off on Christmas, Easter, and all the other main holidays.
  • Of course I have my 40 hour weeks and do not need to answer the phone during inconvenient hours.
  • I dream of being paid my overtime, which by the time that I write this accounts to 4 – 5 years… (Man, I am in paradise!:))
  • Good work should be rewarded with stock options … Oh yes, I really like to get ownership of the church. My focus would be on trying to get my hands on the sound system (that’s about the best we have in church and I really need to get another one at home).
  • To create the optimal work environment I would like the complainers to be removed from the church, the people with too heavy counseling issues to be replaced and I would prefer cheer girls to perform their dances and movements after every well addressed thought and Biblical exposure when I preach.
  • Oh God, I dream of the day when people are not allowed to comment on the services and sermons anymore!

This other almost rebellious dream of me is that of going on strike… Oh, yes! Me and my colleagues gather outside our church with our huge signs stating that Time has come to take over”,We don’t take it anymore!” “No praise but Raise!”New mics or strikes!”

This will help the congregation to have compassion on us pastors, it would help them realize that just because we are pastors, doesn’t mean we have taken the vow of poverty.

As I look at the multi-cultural crowd of church members and church goers who are about to enter the building as we block their way …. I suddenly awake and realize it is all a nightmare!

Thank God it is not true… It was just a nightmare. A deep sense of relieve fills my being, peace returns and I can breath again. Until I see the heading of the newspaper screaming into my face “Free churches need a good collective agreement”.

  • If Christ was still in His grave (and by the way He isn’t) He would roll over!
  • If Paul would be among us he would dedicate at least another couple of letters addressing the heresy of position, possession and power in contrast to the attitude who was in Christ Jesus… Phil. 2: 5-7 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,…”

As you might understand I am a little bit sarcastic, maybe even on the edge of things. But, honestly speaking… Where is the sense of calling? (ett kall), that wonderful old-fashioned word which explains that there is something beyond the work, the hardships, the frustration and sometimes pain… there is the privilege of a calling which one experiences from God. And honestly speaking, I think we should refrain from trying to unionize the calling from God. Don’t touch it, it is not a job!

Call me naive, call me ignorant. I have decided a long time ago to not fight for my so called “rights” … I think that the essence of faith and ministry is to learn to give up ones rights, entrusting oneself in the hands of Him who is Righteous and Just!

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther

Old prayers smell. Old accomplishments fade. Old love grows cold.

I don’t know if you feel like me at times; I need to learn to pray again…

  • No matter how long you have been a Christian,
  • no matter how committed you might have been,
  • no matter how many answers to prayers you might have received before.

Prayer is like manna, the bread-like food which God gave to His people after they had left Egypt as they were wandering in the desert. Moses told them to gather fresh manna day after day as much as they needed. Some were lazy, others decided to have it their own way (Exodus 16) but those who tried to do it their own way found that the manna was full of maggots and began to smell.

Old prayers smell. Old accomplishments fade. Old love grows cold. The point I am making is that we need a fresh new touch, a new meeting, a new prayer each day.

This morning as I was reading the letter to Hebrews in the New Testament I read the following:

Hebrews 5: 7-10 “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek”.

Much can be said about these few verses, what touch me was the following:

Jesus, in spite of being the Son of God, and God Himself prayed, petitioned with loud cries and tears… he was heard because of his reverent submission! Wow, he cried out, he stretched out to be heard by his own father… His submission made his appeals to be heard…

Although he was a son, he learned obedience…!

“Father, let me learn from your son Jesus Christ. Create, by your Holy Spirit, a heart of prayer, of obedience and of love. Let me be more like Jesus!”

Please God,

John

Abortions among teenagers in Stockholm increase; highest figures since 1990!

Abortions among teenagers in Stockholm increase; highest figures since 1990!

After yesterday’s blog about “abortion art”, alarming figures have been released by our social authorities here in Sweden.

Although the figures show that there is a slow decrease in the country as a whole, the increase among teenage girls is clear. In Salem, one of the suburbs of Stockholm 5% of the girls have undergone an abortion. One more provoking fact was brought to the attention: 37% of the women undergoing abortion have done so previously! Abortion seems to be used as an contraceptive!

As a pastor I have been confronted with women and couples who have gone through abortion and besides the fact that many are ridden by guilt about the death of the child, they also are faced with tremendous traumas. Some time ago I wrote a rather extensive blog on that, read it here.

What to say after such figures? Again, let the words of Ulf Ekman guide us in this regard, let us never stop speaking and fighting against this injustice!

John