Tag Archives: God

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

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Is Olle Carlsson a real reformer?

In the article “Reformator retar – och ratas?” in Brännpunkt of SVD today, members and politically chosen representatives of the left fraction within the leadership of Katarina Church (Swedish Church) in Stockholm are questioning the fact that the Ole was not endorsed to become the vicar of the church. ”Was the reformer (Olle) teased and rejected was their question?”

The authors tell us in the article that Olle Carlsson had become one of the most influential spiritual leaders of the Swedish Church (former State Church), his ministry, according to them, reached thousands of people in the city and beyond. His message touched modern people and him life experience made him trustworthy. They continue to say that one has to judge leadership by considering results and in regard to this Allahelgona church had few contestants. Over and over again the authors use the words revival, renewal and reformation to describe the so called spiritual phenomenon which is going on in Allahelgonakyrkan through the ministry of Olle.

My question is: Is Olle Carlsson a real reformer? Well, the answer has everything to do with the way you describe the term reformation. Did Olle use unusual ways, methods and messages to get his viewpoints across? Certainly! In many ways he was so much different from the more liturgical and traditional approaches in the Swedish Church. His ability to see people as individuals and their needs is a refreshing approach in a rather stale form of Christianity that we exercise in Sweden. His ability to identify with people’s hurts, hardships and brokenness brought a mind-blowing dimension to the life of church goers. He was a man who dared to break out of the box.

BUT…Is he a reformer in the Biblical sense? That’s the question!

When we go back into the history of the church and the Reformation (I use this because the authors use the concept as a building stone), we find that real Reformation in our history had to do with strong fundamental Biblical issues calling people back to God and the authority of His Word.

The four questions or doctrines addressed were: How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? And what is the essence of Christian living?

In answering these questions, Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox established what would be known as the “Five Solas” of the Reformation (sola being the Latin word for “alone”). These five points of doctrine were at the heart of the Protestant Reformation.

1. “Sola Scriptura,” or Scripture Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that the Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice. Scripture and Scripture alone is the standard by which all teachings and doctrines of the church must be measured. As Martin Luther so movingly stated when asked to renounce his teachings, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason -….- my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

2. “Sola Gratia,” Salvation by Grace Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is by God’s grace alone and that we are rescued from His wrath by His grace alone. God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary, but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. This grace is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

3. “Sola Fide,” Salvation by Faith Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. It is by faith in Christ that His righteousness is given to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.

4. “Solus Christus,” In Christ Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is found in Christ alone and that His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to God the Father. The gospel has not been preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared, and if faith in Christ and His work is not solicited.

5. “Soli Deo Gloria”, For the Glory of God Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God for His glory alone. It affirms that as Christians we must glorify Him always, and must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God, and for His glory alone.

These five important and fundamental doctrines were the reason for the Protestant Reformation. They were a call back to the heart of Christianity, Christ, His work, death on the cross and resurrection, and also a revival to the authority of the Word of God.

Is Olle Carlsson a reformer in the Biblical sense? I do not believe so. I believe that the call for repentance, the call to Biblical Christianity and followership of Christ is not heard, nor taught under his ministry. The sheer presence of crowds is no confirmation of God’s presence. It might be the opposite at times. If we bring and preach what people want to hear we become crowd pleasers and politically correct but spiritually oh, so wrong. The message of the Cross, the need for repentance is not a message the Modern Swede wants to hear and seems to be old fashioned, reeking fundamentalism. However, the call from Jesus to follow Him must imply or willingness “to leave”, leave our past, leave our ways, leave our comfort or whatever needs to be left behind to be able to follow Him.

My prayer and hope is that a real reformation would hit the Swedish Church and our other churches as well… In many ways, much of Protestant Christianity needs to be challenged to return to these fundamental doctrines of faith, only then there will be a new hope for our nation!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Secularization revisited – the Swedish perspective

The Christian Daily Dagen addressed a study conducted by Anna Kiefer from The Kairos Future institute about how “Soft values and money go hand in hand”.

The institute concludes as they compared a world wide study done among 22 500 persons from 17 countries in the ages 16-29 and 30-50. Among the ones born in the 1980ties in Sweden they found how few believed in God and how religion played a small roll in their life in regards to their values. Only 38% believe in God in comparison with 75% in the USA.

This is nothing new to me, I wrote about similar things in a blog in April called “World Values Survey – another way of looking at cultures!” When you check the blog and the diagram you will find that Sweden is the most individualized and secular nation in the world.

However, we need to make a couple of observations: religion in the USA is closely interwoven with culture (as it is in many other nations as well). When people call themselves believers in God this may mean many different things. Coming from a Roman Catholic background myself I knew of NOT ONE true believer in God throughout my upbringing. (Read part of my story)

Many people whom I know from many different cultures and backgrounds might more easily then Swedish people use words of faith, believe, beliefs, God and other “religious” expressions in comparison to others. This does not necessarily mean much to them; it is part of their culture heritage rather than having faith in God as a person.

At the same time I can encourage you to check out The Kairos Institute website because they do provide a lot of good, well researched information which we need to take consider as we effectively and relevantly want to make a case for Christian faith in out nation!

A subjective observation from my side makes me believe that many young people in Sweden are searching for the purpose of their life and that they do not dismiss God as potential answer to their quest. In day to day, face to face contacts many give indications that they want to experience God in their life and that they long for finding the roots of their existence.

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Does evil make us human?

Paul W. Kahn’s first sentence in his book “Out of Eden” says: “Evil makes us Human”… writing such a statement surely calls for attention! Göran Skytte’s article in SVD “Personal evil is a reality” already releases responses of people who do not believe in the personal character of evil and declare it to be metaphysics.

Every single day all of our moral sensitivities are challenged by the depth of human depravity and the tremendous scenes of deep traumatic human suffering. What kinds of world are we living in where predators go after the most vulnerable and exposed people; the children, the suffering, the young and the poor? Ethnic cleansing, suicide bombers and people in power in Burma who allow the same people they are called to lead and protect, to expose to a potential genocide?

Even the places once thought safe, like school, home, church, and small towns, have all been penetrated by an evil presence that has created a culture of fear, hatred, and blame. We are left to make sense of it all and often look for someone to blame.

There the question might come in: How does God draw near to deal with the problem of evil?

I don’t try to say that there are easy short-cut answers to be found on all aspects of human suffering as we experience it. Questions like, “why was I raped and abused as a child?”, “why did my parents have to die in a tsunami?”, or “why do the rulers in Burma allow their people to die by not allowing help to flood in?”, make it clear that there are no easy answers resolving all “why” questions. Yet as a Christian I can speak in general terms about living within the remnants of a fallen creation which is marked by chaos and disorder, and deeply disfigurement by the horrendous effects of sin’s deformation of God’s original intention (Genesis 3).

Depths of human wickedness may take various forms, “the line between good and evil is never between ‘us’ and ‘them’, the ‘poor’ and the ‘rich’ , the ‘criminal’ and the ‘saint’, or the ‘left’ and the ‘right’, but runs through the heart of every individual and every society”.

The most sensitive, the most moral and the most religious persons among us are not immune from the influence of evil. The apostle Paul acknowledges that though he “wants to do good”, evil continually to take over the best of his intentions (Romans 7:14-24). There is a constant battle for those who wish to do good, and we should never play down personal evil as if it were the problem of a few, while the rest of us are immune (Romans 3:23). There are simply no easy answers that effectively tackle the way of evil in our world.

The fact is (and we are all aware of it ): evil is not limited to the personal level: it has possessed the corporate world through greed, the political world through power and ambition, and the institutional church through preserving the appearances at the expense of people. It takes the form of social injustice that promotes racism, poverty and the marginalization of various groups.

Evil sometimes wears a suit, lives in luxurious apartments in the inner-city districts of Kungsholmen and Östermalm in Stockholm while driving their BMW, but it is also dominant in the high-rising apartment buildings in Tensta, Botkyrka or Rinkeby where new Swedes try to make themselves a living and home.

Evil can also hide behind a success driven, consumer friendly, image conscious, program based church that exists for its own sake. And, we ought not to be surprised because “even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

So what can we learn from the Bible about God’s way of addressing the problem of evil and shattering its horrible effects? Through Jesus, God’s justice takes on human flesh as Jesus came down to the earth and encounters the effects of evil with a holiness that produces cleansing, a power that breaks down the very strongholds of evil, and a Kingdom that provided a vision of an alternative way.

His presence exposed institutional corruption, and challenged the Roman Empire with an alternative Kingdom. The climatic exhibition of Jesus’ victory over personal, cosmic and global evil comes at the cross, when dark forces come together in personal betrayal and denial, institutional terrorism and threats, and political power-games and violence.

This is the way evil works in the world, and Jesus seems to be no match before these dark and accusing forces. But when taunted to use his powers for personal deliverance he refuses to play their power-games. When he is insulted and mocked, he refuses to allow tensions by hitting back in the same spirit. Instead, he answes their evil intentions with a real call for forgiveness, that has the potential of crushing evil’s deadly grip. Yes, in the darkness of the occasion even Jesus felt somehow abandoned by God – “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” Mark 15:34. In the end it was Jesus who was in control and calling the shots. Evil had taken its best shot, but even a Roman centurion had to admit, “Surely this man was the Son of God”.

Could it be that a sign of God, a sign of change has come down in the person Jesus Christ as he broke down the personal and corporate evil in our time and age?

I believe so and that’s the Way I see it!

John







Kristina Axén Olin steps down… Well done Kristina: love your neighbor as yourself!

Kristina Axén Olin steps downWell done Kristina: love your neighbor as yourself!

I have been surprised; happily surprised that Kristina has stepped down from her position as “mayor” from the city of Stockholm. I am happily surprised because finally she has chosen for herself and her family. It was years ago that I had contact with her for the first time and as time passed our contact became less and less.

I have appreciated her as someone who had a genuine concern for her city and the inhabitants, she truly loved Stockholm and the Stockholmers. During her political carrier I was able to spend some time with her. I tried to think of her as a person with a family and a marriage and not as a person in power. A few times as we met I mentioned my concern for her and her family; this was long before crisis hit her.

Kristina, I don’t know whether you will ever read this, but I congratulate you with your choice… It is good for you to step down from your position as a mayor. You do love the Stockholmers, you love us… But, you can only love us to the degree that you love yourself and your family!

Love your neighbors (us, the Stockholmers) as yourself! My prayer is that you will come to peace in your life that you will learn to love yourself enough to be on the receiving end of love. My prayer is that this will be the time in your life to recuperate and learn to receive. You don’t need to fix all things. You don’t need to carry the burden of the world upon your shoulders! You are accepted, loved and appreciated for who you are… not for what you do!

My desire and prayer is that somehow, some time there might be an opportunity to show you that you are loved when you least expect it! When the music has faded, when the lime lights are gone and people have forgotten you for what you did… When others have taken your place and have moved on in the political realm. Then I hope to be one of those who can tell/show you that you are not forgotten, that you were appreciated and thought of for who you were; Kristina, a woman, a mother, a child of the King!

God bless you during these shaking and moving times.

May He protect you,

John