Category Archives: relationships

Yet another woman caught between West and Islam!

This morning I was watching the film “Women on the border to West(ern societies – free translation of me) a film from Dilsa Demirbag-Sten on the PLAY Axess TV channel, via the web. Among the ones whose situation was addressed was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman whose viewpoints I recently wrote about (here). The reason for showing this movie on Axess was the newly released book by Dilsa called “The Fatherland – Fosterland”.

Dilsa Demirbag Sten born 10 October 1969, is from Kurdish background and was born in southeastern Turkey. In 1976 she came to Sweden and was raised here. She is an author and freelance journalist. At early age she was “given” to be engaged against her will but broke the engagement and escaped a forced marriage. She moved to Stockholm, where she worked for the National Theatre, Amnesty International and became advisor to Minister for Integration, Leif Blomberg. She has committed to the fight against the oppression of women and honor related violence. Demirbag-Stone is a liberal and Islam critic. She is involved in the atheistic Humanist Association and claims to work for a secular, democratic and equal society.

I appreciate her fight against Islam fundamentalism and the way women and girls are abused within that system. The film is an eye-opener which should be “compulsory viewing” for every politician and people working within areas of social welfare and integration.

While I was still reviewing some of the pictures and stories in my mind, I met an older woman in Tensta this morning. She also was born in Turkey, like Dilsa. However, she was born in an Orthodox Christian tradition. “Pray for us” she told me, “because it is so hard for us here in Tensta as Muslims take over more and more. You Western people have no idea how they think and how they do… we have some experience from that back home; that’s why we are here. Now the same thing is going to happen here!” (For the reader; an Arabic prince Adbul Aziz Ben Fadh, son to Saudi Arabians former king Fadhwants wants to build a mosque in this part of the city by donating 400 million Swedish kronor, (60 million dollars). The prince already helped to built mosques in Los Angeles and Edinburgh.

When will we learn and when will we listen? This older Turkish woman’s cry for help (and prayer) was resembling the cry of thousands of unheard voices of women (and men) who are entangled in the web of exclusion of Muslim faith and control, removing more and more people into isolation and segregation.

That’s the Way I experienced it…

John

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Corrosion in subtle ways or just plain lust for power?

In today’s column Göran Skytte writes about Maria Wetterstrand, spokeswoman of the Greens and how she might be Sahlin’s (Social Democrats) worst friend. A few weeks ago Skytte wrote an earlier article in the same spirit just a few weeks ago. The stakes are high in this regard since both parties work together as partners against the other (right wing) coalition.

Different sources (here, here and in a long interview in Fokus) are mentioned as a foundation on which to state that Wetterstrand has the dream to break the power monopoly of the Social Democratic party.

Corrosion in subtle ways?

If the dream is to crush that monopoly, the question is asked why she is gone into as coalition with them? I don’t know the motives at heart of this issue, maybe the strategic drive of the Greens is so strong that a conscious approach this way will allow a long-term bit by bit infiltration through relationship where basic values and viewpoints are being corroded in subtle ways.

This might seem a long shot, but at the same time we see how different other structures and organizations have used and are using similar strategies to reach their long-term goals; think of how Muslim influence has grown questioning and corroding many of the main values we believe in; among them democracy!

Lust for power?

Maybe the lust for power (which the Greens expect through coalition with SD) makes one blind for the things one truly believes in? Let’s face it many people and organizations have paid heavy dues to be able to join in the corridors of the powerful and mighty, the Greens might show to have that same inclination?!

There is nothing new under the sun! Power corrupts and the willingness to compromise to obtain ones futile ambitions is unlimited. We need people who stand for what they value and believe and who are true to their promises. Unfortunately I don’t expect to find that among power driven politicians – the survival of the fittest seems to continue to be their slogan!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

New released study shows that children happier for being spiritual!

New Canadian studies reveal much to the surprise of researchers: that children have an unexpectedly sophisticated grasp of spirituality, and they’re happier for it.

“There had never been that language; that link had never been made for him,” Ennis, director of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a children’s program in the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, says of her son’s epiphany. Newly published research from the University of British Columbia finds that spirituality — a personal belief in a higher power — is strongly linked to the happiness of children ages eight to 12. Read the whole article: here.

Private religious or disciples?

I have a high respect for the ministry of Agape Sweden and especially the work that Tord Larsson is doing. I am inclined to agree that there is much more openness in Sweden to the Gospel when one considers the last 30 years. At the same time we have to be careful with the kind of observations that we make as we identify people’s interest in Christ and their desire to getting to know Him. From experience I can tell that it is “quite easy” to lead someone in a prayer to accept Jesus Christ… But what does that stand for? The overwhelming majority of people who “accept Jesus” through an evangelistic encounter on the streets never ever become part of a church and might not show the “fruit” of following Jesus in changed lifestyles and habits.

As an evangelist, pastor and church planter I rejoice with every single person who shows a desire to getting to know Jesus, however, I am careful to rejoice too abundantly unless I recognize the fruit of repentance and their new life in Jesus.

Having prayed with many hundreds of people “to salvation” I can honestly tell that many of those I prayed for don’t live the life of a disciple. At the same time as my awareness of the discipleship process grew I have seen many more people become disciples as I introduced them not only to this “step of salvation” but what it had for consequences in lifestyle and belonging (church).

We know from Jesus’ approach that as the crowds grew he tightened and clarified what it meant to follow Him with the result that many actually left Him. They were touched by Him, they were healed, they saw miracles and yet never became disciples!

Let us pray and work in such way that we multiply disciples, rejoicing with every ray of light and hope in our dark times as mentioned in the article BUT also realize that this is only a glimpse of what it really means to follow Jesus. It would be interesting to know how many of those who acknowledge to becoming Christians are integrated in the Body of Christ doing His will together with others.

What do you think?

John

Stress among Christians and in Christian ministry

“Spiritual demands can create stress”. Was the name of an article in the Christian Daily here in Sweden.

Tommy Dahlman discovered that the Church is not a sanctuary from stress… Tommy tells us that there are many reasons why we experience stress, it is not only related to the hours that we work… He addresses that one of the reasons is the sense that we have to be available and in touch with our world around us at al times.

What I find interesting is the element of stress also among leaders in the church; research done in North America describe the following facts of people in ministry: Most Protestant pastors make their greatest impact in a church between the 5th and 14th years of their pastorate in that location. Yet, the average length of a pastorate is less than five years. Other facts:

• 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.

• 50% – 60% of church planters close the plant and the effort dies.

• 90% say their Bible School/Seminary Training did not prepare them for what they face day-to-day in the church.

• Only 10% finish the race and reach age 65 as a pastor.

• Two-thirds say their congregation has been in conflict in the past 2 years.

• 80% of pastors’ spouses with their spouse would choose another profession.

• Nationally 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to burnout, moral failure, or conflict in the church. That’s 18,000 per year!

• 1 out of every 4 of those who left reported they were motivated by conflict with the denomination or a “belief that church headquarters was not supportive.”

• 50% of those who begin in the ministry leave after their first pastorate in less than 5 years never to return to ministry though they felt called.

I know stress since I live with it to some capacity on a daily basis. I don’t know if one can live without the trials of stress, stress is experienced in many different ways, in responsibilities, assignments, relationships, social circumstances, and finances, in connection to our perception of us and so many more situations and dimensions.

And what about the demands of Jesus as he calls us to leave everything behind and follow Him… Following Jesus implies a certain degree of stress as He challenges us to be changed in His image… the whole process of sanctification can be experienced as a stress related development. Every change I am exposed to is in its essence a possible stress factor in my life.

For Christians there is yet another dimension of stress: and that is the fight in the spiritual world… when becoming a Christian one leaves the “kingdom of darkness” behind and becomes part of the Kingdom of light (or God). The Bible tells us that there is a constant battle going on as our enemy Satan will try to do everything possible to kill, quench and destroy us. The spiritual warfare is real and claims its toll. The problem is that many Christians and leaders in the West are not aware of this warfare thus being unprepared and unprotected against it.

Another aspect that I want to call our attention to is the fact that we are people with many passions. Too many passions! Following Jesus is learning to becoming men and women with few passions in life. Passions demand loyalty, time, resources, attention and energy… The fact that so many are burned out and are “stressed to death” can also be found in the fact that we have too many passions. Be a person with few passions and your life will be less stressed.

Personally I don’t think stress is the problem, the problem is what we do with it! Tommy Dahlman suggests some great remedies to help relieve the stress; he mentions: Live in peace with God and each other, don’t compare yourself to others, have deep relations, be open and transparent…

The earlier mentioned research among leaders showed that support, empathy and teams are lifelines in ministry and to keep your sanity. However, I guess that we will always battle with stress and its consequences. Since the fall of humankind conflict is a part of life (see article on conflict and leadership), conflict within, among and over creation and us. The challenge is to learn to “give our conflict, struggles, trials, stress and challenges to God” which, at times, is easier said than done… I am still in the school of life trying to throw myself into the hands of my master!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Fight Spiritual and Social Poverty in Sweden!

Research released by World Values Survey (WVS) confirm Göran Skytte’s thesis about the real state of the Swedish citizen in regards to spiritual (and I may add, social) poverty. The results of the research as measured by WVS by grading on axes in the picture below show that we are the most secular and most individualized nation in the world. For some that might be considered a great exploit and shows how we are in control, for me it only shows how far we have fallen from our intended life.  (For more information on World Values click here and here).

We are social and spiritual beings with a need for true community and with a need for purpose and destiny. The assumption that we don’t need anybody and the exalted view on the celebration of independency as if it was a merit only shows our true poverty as we stick our heads into the sand ignoring the reality of life.

The sticking of heads into the sand can be a great way to conceal the tears we are crying as no one knows what is happening down under the surface in the sand. However, it takes a strong person to shed those same tears publically and to admit the need for others and God in ones life.

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Don’t leave anyone behind! – On Oikos evangelism

Much has been said and written about evangelism, Dagen and many others have their opinion about evangelism in Sweden in 2010 (here, here, here, here). One of the aspects of church is not only the involvement in the new community of believers through a new life in Jesus Christ. There is an aspect that so many people forget… and that is the involvement and care for the old network of family and friends. In our church (New Life Stockholm) we have seen whole groups of people turn to Jesus because we try to consider the fact that people belong to networks and are more than just individuals “whose souls have to become saved”.

Leaving behind

Don’t leave anyone behind is not a theological statement; I want to create an awareness that faith in Christ Jesus without a doubt has a dimension where we have to leave something behind; when Jesus says “follow me” there is literally a step which requires us to leave something else.

Bringing along

At the same time, as we will shortly see in the scriptures that we will read, there is a dimension of engagement and involvement with those who are non-Christians, whether family, friends, colleges, classmates.

The NT describes many situations where we find the implementation of this dimension of Christian faith.

  • Faith is not only a personal matter, although it has to start with a personal decision.
  • Faith is also a community matter.
  • The problem today is that we have privatized faith and separated faith from daily life, basic daily decisions and behavior.
  • Faith is not private; faith is community and has a direct consequence for we way we make decisions, create values and it directs the way we behave and the direction we go.

It is an unquestionable fact in the Bible that those people who find faith in Jesus in Christ influence other people around them as a direct consequence of their newly found faith. Let’s read some Scriptures…

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi

Acts 16: 11From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

In verses 15 & 31, 32 we get some important information, in both cases with Lydia and with the jailor we read about the fact that their households had come to believe and were baptized along with them.

The Oikos

The word which we have translated into “households” comes from the Greek word Oikos. In other scriptures, for example in Acts 10 verses 24 & 27 we read that this Oikos is more than just a family, or traditional household as we know it.

The Oikos represented the basic social unit by which the early church grew, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.

Michael Green, “Evangelism in the Early Church”, confirms that “the (oikos) family understood in this broad way, as consisting of blood relations, slaves, clients and friends, was one of the strongholds of Graeco-Roman society.

We can see what an Oikos meant to the early church.

  • An oikos was the fundamental and natural unit of society, and consisted of one’s sphere of influence-his/her family, friends, and extended to acquaintances, neighbors, slaves and employees.
  • And equally important, the early church spread through oikoses-circles of influence and relationships. The first church didn’t have mass campaigns for evangelism.

Bringing along our Oikoses in relationship to God is the God-given and God-created means for naturally sharing our SUPERNATURAL message.

  • The early church spread as people within the Oikoses saw how people were transformed, how people turned from their sins, how broken people were restored, how broken relationships were mended and how hopelessness turned to hope!
  • In the early church, it was the restoration of balance, the restitution of wrongs, and the fragrance of an attractive new life that drew so many to the new Oikos that God was forming. (God’s church is also called Oikos – a new Oikos where people find a new home).

Don’t leave anyone behind! In the Scriptures, which we just read we identify how, God is not only dealing with individuals, but with whole groups, Oikoses. Summary: The apostle Paul and his small group of people were together involved in these encounters.

What can we learn:

  • Don’t go alone; you belong to a group of people who share the same faith; open your old Oikos to brothers and sisters who can help you to touch their lives with the Good News!
  • Be active, not passive. It is a deliberate choice.
  • “Begin to speak” — people must hear the Word of God.
  • When one person accepts Jesus as Savior, ask him if he/she would like to have you help them share the Good News with their Oikos!
  • The new Christian’s credibility with them opens the door for God’s love!