Tag Archives: Christianity

Greatest Muslim nation on earth wonders what happens; Christianity grows like never before!

Indonesia, a nation with over 215 million Muslim believers that total 13% of the total Muslim world population is in for a surprise! Unprecedented growth among Christians with an Evangelical and Pentecostal identity puzzles the nation. In Indonesia it is a disgrace and a dangerous act to convert to Christianity from a Muslim background. People who are converts are experiencing different kinds of persecution within the extended family, but also within society.  Exact figures are hard to gather but a recent report estimates that 10% of Indonesians are Christians. A figure many Christian leaders believe is too low.

Some interesting facts?

  • In the early 1960s there were no Evangelical churches in Temanggung, where the soccer-field revival took place; now there are more than 40.
  • In the capital Jakarta, newly built mega churches send steeples into the sky
  • Other Christians worship at unofficial churches based in hotels and malls, where Sunday services rival shopping as a popular weekend activity
  • Asia’s tallest statue of Jesus Christ, built in 2007, presides over Manado city in eastern Indonesia, while Indonesian cable TV beams 24-hour Christian channels.

Time magazine reports: “What is it about Evangelical Christianity that has so resonated in Indonesia? As in many other crowded, developing-world countries where a person can feel lost in a teeming slum, the concept of individual salvation is a powerful one. At the same time, the attempted hijacking of Muslim theology by a small band of homegrown terrorists who have killed hundreds of Indonesians in recent years has led some to question their nation’s majority faith. So, too, has the general trend toward a more conservative Islam that has given rise to hundreds of religiously inspired bylaws, from caning for beer-drinking to enforced dress codes for women. Not everyone, though, is celebrating Christianity’s boom. Some Muslims view the faith as an unwanted foreign influence, even though Islam, too, is an imported religion”.

I am excited about this recent development and it gives hope to us who have not been part of such sweeping moves of God in our nations. If God can do it in strongholds of Islam, He can AND will move here as well!

John

Report: Christianity Growing in Indonesia – World – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com.

“Take this city, a city should be shining on a hill” U2- Stockholm

One of my favorite songs is the beautiful song of U2 from the album “How to dismantle an atomic bomb”. At the end of the song Bono’s lyrics say: Take this city, a city should be shining on a hill
. Take this city
, if it be your will.” These words relate to the Gospel of Matthew 5:14“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden”.

As I am thinking about these words and what it takes to be shining in the world… Bono answers that question too as he sings: Yahweh, Yahweh
. Always pain before a child is born. Yahweh, tell me now
. Why the dark before the dawn?

There is always pain in birth. There is always darkness before light. I have this picture in my heart that becomes stronger and stronger as I think and pray about my dear city Stockholm that in so many ways seems to be overcome by darkness.

The picture I have is that of planet earth as it was still unformed, Gen 1:2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters…

If you and I had been there would we have noticed the presence of the Spirit of God? Would we have noticed that He was hovering over the waters? What was He doing there? How long did this go on? From our history and from the Bible we know that the Holy Spirit prepares the ways of God… In the same way as the Spirit was preparing the still unformed and dark earth, God is preparing our city, Stockholm which seems to be empty of His presence (at times)… yet I know that when the time has come God will speak as He did in the beginning: Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light!

Also in our days God is preparing Stockholm by His Spirit, at times we hardly notice it… there is so much work done in hiding, yet when the time has come He will speak with such authority, such hope, such grace that people will turn to Him, acknowledging Him and knowing Him. I see that day in my heart. While there is still pain, while there is still darkness… I am waiting for that day!

There are people in our city overcome by pain and darkness… let’s pray and tell them that soon there will be birth, soon there will be light… as God speaks again words too wonderful to imagine… as young and old turn to Jesus and be transformed!

That’s the Way I see it (in faith!)

John

For the lyrics of “Yahweh” by U2 click here!

Äntligen klarspråk – Finally some clarity!

The article in Christian Daily Dagen was a refreshing perspective on the “to be or not to be” question on membership in the local church. Of course there are many viewpoints on this issue. Membership as it has been applied within the Swedish context for many years now is a farce! People who have been away from the church for many years want to “stå kvar” (remain) on the membership list. It is a little cynical to use that expression “stå kvar i matrikel” literally means: “remain standing in the membership roll” remain standing without any movement… status quo in other words!

Many of them don’t want to disconnect themselves from the church although there is no intention to get closer (deeper) involved. It is like cutting the umbilical cord… a painful reality that is needed for children to start growing outside the womb and which is needed for many of our “members-in-name-only” as well!

In that sense I really agree that there is no reason for us to start applying a membership practice in our churches UNLESS we give a new meaning to the word and the context AND implement it differently. Erwin McManus from Mosaic Church in Los Angeles uses terms as voluntary staff to describe that which we in New Life Stockholm and Gothenburg consider members (as in Michael kyrkan in Uppsala).

The fact is that the praxis of churches in the way they view membership and its implementations has been lame; we have kept people on our membership lists just because they desired so, instead of telling people; “because you are not with us, you are not with us anymore!” – we have compromised and adjusted to people’s sentimental desires to “belong” because this was the church they once were baptized/married, got saved…

An interesting observation of true fellowship in the Bible (derived from the Greek word “Koinonia”, mentioned 19 times in the NT) is the fact that true fellowship is identifying together as a group or church, with Jesus and His desire to doing the will of the Father. With other words all fellowship where the focus is not on doing the will of the Father is no true “Koinonia”/fellowship! With that as basis, many haven’t belonged for a long, long time!

I believe in a low threshold for visitors and anyone who wants to come to the church; all are welcome in most of the meeting places in the church; including cell groups, training, worship services, Bible study occasions… BUT we should have a higher threshold/expectation for those who want to be members where we have to agree on theological stands, vision, values and praxis. For a number of years we have worked with this in mind in New Life and it adds to the clarity of what the community of believers is called to be and do. Many non-Christians come to our churches and different congregations and they don’t have a problem with this clarity… but many who have their roots in the Free Church traditions have their issues with it… My response? “Please grow up and get over it!”

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is doing it again! And Richard Dawkins is on her side! – Battling fundamentalistic Islam

A friend of mine sent me his weekly letter where he addressed “the remarkable twist of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, darling of the liberal crowd, a modern day hero in Richard Dawkins’ book, is now appealing to Christian churches to wage a propaganda battle against Islam by starting new Christian schools, sending Christian volunteers into city neighborhoods and spreading the Christian message!”

Today we have again an article in SVD on the Muslim extremists, we speak about the need of dialogue and understanding each other.  Some years ago, our own Dick Erixon wrote in “Nyliberalen” that he considered Ayaan Ayaan Hirsi Ali as the worldest foremost debater especially in regards to the question of the survival of Western “Civilization” (notice the quotation marks!) – and how to deal with fundamentalist Islam in a free society. In August 29, 2005 Ayaan Hirsi Ali was awarded the annual Democracy Prize of the Swedish Liberal People’s Party “for her courageous work for democracy, human rights and women’s rights.” She received the prize at a ceremony at the Swedish Riksdag from the party leader Lars Leijonborg.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born Ayaan Hirsi Magan 13 November 1969 in Mogadishu, Somalia is a Dutch intellectual, feminist activist, writer, and politician. She is the estranged daughter of the late Somali scholar, politician, and revolutionary opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse. She is a prominent critic of Islam, and her screenplay for Theo Van Gogh’s movie “Submission” led to death threats. Through the worldwide spread of this instance she became know to a wide international audience. Since van Gogh’s assassination by a Muslim extremist in 2004, she has lived in seclusion under the protection of Dutch authorities.

When she was eight, her family left Somalia for Saudi Arabia, then Ethiopia, and eventually settled in Kenya. She sought and obtained political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992, under circumstances that later became the center of a political controversy. In 2003 she was elected a member of the House of Representatives (the lower house of the Dutch parliament), representing the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).

In 2005, she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Now she is doing it again!

Let me quote from my friend’s letter: In her new book, Nomad, she continues her campaign against radical Islam. She is presently in Holland promoting her book, which quotes arch-atheist Dawkins on the cover saying: ‘This woman is a major hero of our times.’

Solution

Europe is sleepwalking towards its downfall, she warns, a cultural, ideological and political downfall; because churches neglected the immigrant ghettos. But there is a solution, she suggests. Mobilize the churches again! If Saudi-Arabia can invest millions in Koran schools and religious propaganda, why not the Catholic Church, with all its wealth and millions of faithful followers? She says that churches could be active in Muslim communities and offer there the same services that radical Muslims now do, by building schools, hospitals and civic centers, and doing the same civilizing work they did in Africa during the colonization period. 

Now, is there any white person who could get away with saying that?! Westerners have looked on for too long while Muslim scholars won souls, she continues. Churches of all persuasions must enter the competition of systematic religious propaganda with Islam, to curb its growth. Churches should revive such Christian institutions as schools, Christian volunteers in urban neighborhoods, and the spreading of the Christian message!

The West is losing the propaganda war, she says, and the Church can help Muslims assimilate. Motivating immigrants to adopt Western values has been neglected for too long. European leaders–including church leaders–have for decades neglected to take the newcomers into their flock.

“It’s maybe paradoxical to call in the church, while advocates of the enlightenment always fought the Vatican,” writes Hirsi Ali, “but Christianity has changed and the Church has become a much more tolerant institution.” (Dawkins may be reading her books, but she doesn’t seem to be reading his!)

Choice Muslims don’t need to give up their faith to assimilate, she allows. They can pray, keep Ramadan and other Islamic practices.  But they need to give up the social-political side like Jihad, Sharia, the oppression of women, intolerance against homosexuality or those born Muslims but who want something else. “That is a choice. Immigration is a choice. Nobody forced them to come here. Everybody came here willingly.” “In my opinion,” she was reported as saying, “many Muslims are searching for a God that answers to the description of the Christian God. Instead they are being given Allah.” Those Muslims who want to believe in a Creator and eternal life should choose for Jesus as their spiritual leader, she suggests.

The new approach of Ayaan Hirsi Ali to stop the “Radical Muslimization process” will without a doubt call forth many responses and reactions from both Muslims and secular people. She offers an alternative, the only alternative, to a challenge that has been left unchallenged for years because of its political un-correctness. The fact that Ayaan Hirsi Ali sees no other way out in spite of her anti-religious foundational stand makes one wonder whether she is starting to see light in the tunnel. (Of course could one wonder about her discernment in regards to earlier Christian missions and the present liberal stand of many churches, but what the heck, she is at least daring to speak out as usual!) She does need protection, so pray for her because many snakes will be rattled out from the fundamentalistic nest trying to bite her!

John

Svenska Kyrkan – The Swedish Church – Politics as usual! Please: R.I.P

Svenska Kyrkan is top news again (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). In the “dry-spell of news” during the summer a discussion has blown up again about the acknowledgement and praxis of having same-sex-marriages performed with the Church context. It was ignited because of reaction from representatives of the Anglican Church in England who warn against a potential isolation because of this issue.

The large majority of the Swedish church, with the exception of a minority of local congregations, has lost its spiritual identity since many years ago. I remember discussing the process of the separation of Church and State with students from RMI Bergs the renowned commercial communication school enhancing different disciplines. Students of that school were to develop a marketing plan for the separation of Church and State (at that moment in time until the 1990ties, The Lutheran Church was the State Church).

As a number of their students and I were meeting, I suggested that a big advertisement campaign would be launched with photos and text displaying the funeral of the former State Church with the clear message R.I.P. (Rest In Peace). The students of Bergs were quite excited about that idea, but, as they later met with representatives of the Church, the idea was discarded. It was too radical, and it was probably too painful to admit that the Church needed a death to be able to resurrect.

RIP

The problem with the Swedish Church is that it never was separated from the State… It was done in name only and it is therefore that political powers and lobbying organizations like the RFSL do everything within their might to push their political and social agendas. (RFSL—The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights).

I personally look forward to an isolation of the Swedish Church! The Church with an agenda run by politicians and lobbying organizations needs to be isolated from the rest of the “Body of believers” to not spread its unhealthy unbiblical message poisoning the rest of Christianity. You don’t need to be a prophet to be able to “predict” where the Swedish Church is heading… and although there will remain a remnant of faithful and Biblically sound pockets of believers in the different congregations and fellowships, the Church as movement needs to undergo the long awaited and necessary funeral to be able finish the grieving process so that the ones who are still alive will be able to move on.

Without a death and funeral there will be no resurrection and new life! We will continue to see the rise of discussions, dissensions and frustrations as long as we don’t acknowledge the true state of the Swedish Church (and, let me add the spiritual state of many of our other churches as well!) Without that recognition we will continue to use the spiritual arena to fight our political and social battles. Jesus once said to people who were wondering about paying taxes (and fulfilling the obligation as a citizen): (Mark 12: 17) “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

For me, the idea of being an errand-boy of the State is far removed from my call to be faithful to God as His child, His son and His servant. I am for the implementation of keeping marriage sacred between one man and one woman… and to keep it as sacrament within the church where it belongs. Other, legal and juridical matters should be where they belong; in the hands of our government.

That’s the Way I see it!

John


The ends of the world as we know them – suicidal tendencies of our civilizations.

So many articles (here, here, here, here, here, and here) try to address the main questions in our world today. The many attempts to explain what is going on in our day and time is really like treading water in an empty pool… in 2005 the editors of the New York Times choose to promote a book written by Jared Diamond called “The ends of the world as we know them.” Later on Diamond won the Pulitzer prize for his non-fiction book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” In 2005 this same Diamond published “Collapse; How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” (Check his lecture at the University of CA) which became like a historical bible for many students helping to describe history in a new perspective.

I came across some of this information as I recently started to read (again) about the decline of civilizations. Because let’s be honest; we are in the middle of the decline of our (Western) civilizations… and, to quote a real expert on that: “There is nothing new under the sun!” Ecclesiastes 1: 9-10 “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time”.

civilization

The fact is that history repeats itself… Therefore we need to learn from history. We are on the verge of a total new time of transition and will have to learn to deal and live with new facts and new life about, and in our world. Why? Because the worlds as we now know them will not be there in the near future…

During my MA in Intercultural Studies I was interested in researching the upcoming and fall of cities and societies. The main expert on this I found to be Arnold Joseph Toynbee (April 14, 1889 – October 22, 1975) Toynbee was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, “A Study of History”, 1934-1961, was a combination of world history, a meta-history based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global perspective.

Toynbee argues that “self-determining” civilizations are born (out of more primitive societies), not due to racial or environmental factors, but as a response to challenges, such as hard country, new ground, blows and pressures from other civilizations, and penalizations. He argues that for civilizations to be born, the challenge must be a golden mean; that excessive challenge will crush the civilization, and too little challenge will cause it to stagnate.

He argues that civilizations continue to grow only when they meet one challenge only to be met by another. He argues that growth is driven by “Creative Minorities,” those who find solutions to the challenges which others then follow.

While Diamond in his book from 2005 emphasizes the need to fight the environmental factors (which I don’t want to minimize) he agrees with Toynbee that “civilizations die from suicide, not by murder” when they fail to meet the challenges of their times.

I find these thoughts very challenging and provoking… It is like waling the tightrope; too little challenge will lead to stagnation, too much will crush us! However, the point of interest for me is to be part of the “Creative Minority” which finds the solutions to our challenges today!

Looking back throughout history (His Story = God’s Story) makes me dare to believe that the people of God, the Christians can be those minorities… as they have been throughout the history of our world. In so many ways and in so many cases history writers (most often male and part of the ruling majority) have silenced and hidden the accomplishments of the remnant of God’s people in their societies who were part of laying foundation and proposing structures and values which carried whole civilizations through the transitions of challenge and change.

I appeal to sensible women and men of God who are willing to pay the price to be part of this “overwhelming minority” which somehow, some way will be used to bring hope to a fallen and suicidal world as they in humbleness and soberness live out the fullness of life through Jesus Christ in this dying world!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Jesusmanifestation: Announce May 2nd as Sweden’s national day of Christian celebration!

The 2009 Jesusmanifestation (here, here, here, here and here) is now bigger than the 1maj demonstration of the Socialistic Party! “Jesus is alive in the media again!” exclaimed Göran Skytte the former atheistic and communistic journalist who has come to a living faith in Jesus Christ. It’s true, but as Skytte emphasized its not necessarily positive coverage about Jesus.

As has been shown throughout history; you can’t keep a good man down! They couldn’t keep Him in the grave and they can’t silence Him even 2000 years after his death!

Personally I am inclined to start talking about a new national holiday of Christian celebration on May 2nd. Why? Because we need at least one day a year where we, free from the normal “religious” traditions, can focus, unite and celebrate the fact that Jesus still cares for our nation and our people.

I am already dreaming about what might take place next year! Jesus was walking the streets of Stockholm and it was a joy to just watch people’s faces as young and old walked through the streets towards Kungsträdgården… – The Garden of the King (of kings).

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Sergels Torg filled with Son Worshippers!

I enjoyed just walking there being part of the crowd… just a few minutes earlier we had finished off a three hour intensive meeting at Sergels Torg where Vineyard, Petruskyrkan, Korskyrkan, Tomaskyrkan, V.E.M. and New Life Church united in presenting Jesus Christ to everyone who was wiling to listen. Personally I have been the MC of the meeting, trying to keep a red thread in this three hour time of worship, testimonies, music, preaching and prayer. It was a joy to be on Plattan… the very place where our church was born years ago.

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Sergels Torg praying together for peope in our nation

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On our way to Kungsträdgården

I just want to wish you God’s blessings… and hope you will join us next year! See you then!

John van Dinther

By the way: Saturday’s congress of the Sverige Demokraterna with 150 participants in Frösundavik outside of Stockholm was in depth evaluated in the national news today while the Jesusmanifestation had it’s 8 seconds of national coverage… quite a development of attention in comparison to none coverage in last year’s reporting by national media!