Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

The reality of a visionary lifestyle. (Part I)

From early age on I have, to some degree, been drawn into the reality of a visionary lifestyle. I saw difficulties and entrepreneurial endeavors as challenges and possibilities although I must confess not all of them were kosher.

As a young kid I saw possibilities in the selling of full-color pictures that I had glued on wooden backgrounds, I also started working on (almost) a daily basis at the age of eight as I helped out after school in a apple transport firm. From the creation of a discothèque for youth that loved “underground music” in the sleepy, isolated village where I grew up, to the transformation and selling of horse shit as hash (dried over my cigarette lighter, and cut into pieces of a few grams). These early attempts to change my ordinary reality set the stage for a perspective on life, which formed me into who I am today.

After meeting Jesus Christ as my savior, my “not-so-holy” attempts to create a new reality were replaced by a Holy Spirit powered and guided lifestyle where barriers, problems, status quo and challenges became stepping stones to a new reality by means of a visionary lifestyle.

One thing that I have carried throughout my life in both sanctified and non-sanctified versions is the importance of living full out in what you believe. Visions that don’t set things into motion are no visions! Or as Peter Drucker expressed it so well: “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work”.

Too many people talk a lot about their visions but they never seem to get out of their chairs to do something.

“Vision for me is hard work!”

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Michael Jackson died a long time ago… the reality of Neverland!

Thousands of shows, newspapers and articles (here, here, here, here, here, here and here, here and  here)are reporting that 1.6 million people have signed up to be part of the lottery which gives the opportunity to get one of the 11,000 tickets available for the memorial service of Michael Jackson at the Staple Center Arena in Los Angeles tomorrow.

Quite an interest for someone who died a long time ago! The fact is that the Michael which people called the “King of the Pop” was nothing more than a mere empty shell of the true Michael Jackson.

Documentaries, special programs and whole weekend editions in papers and magazines are spend to evaluate Michael’s whereabouts, his accomplishments and his history. Sad to say, but besides his great accomplishments in the music industry, his life has been a gathering of chapters filled with clutter, odd and empty attempts and material describing his (re)creation of his life. In that process of self-re-invention the real Michael got lost and the world has run after an idol which had no life left.

It’s a sad reality when the A, B, and C celebrities of our world become the locus of so many people and their own ambitions and dreams. They are all like lost dreams in paradise, the reality of Neverland! The Neverland’s of so many shattered dreams, desires, and ambitions.

There is a truth in the fact that we become like the idol that we worship; who are you worshipping, or what are you worshipping? Whom or what are you becoming? Michael Jackson died a long time ago… his life has only been an empty shell for many years…

Maybe you and I, and so many more, are indebted to creating that kind of life for celebrities like him whose lives are formed by the very people who worship them…

It is hard to be an idol… It is hard to remain truly human. Maybe we were never intended to ever become objects of worship. Maybe we should worship Him to whom all worship belongs with all out strength, all our hearts and all our souls… to truly become whom we were meant to be. His name? King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

World Values Survey – 2008; reasons to be happy?

Among the last hundred people visiting my blog today were people from 24 different nations of our world (Sweden, Australia, Canada, United States, Denmark , Netherlands, Romania, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Finland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Nicaragua, Hungary, Chile, Mexico, India, Turkey, Switzerland, Singapore, Greece, Hong Kong and Bulgaria). Honestly speaking this was the broadest category of nations represented on one and the same day visiting my blog. The reason for that? I can only guess, but I am inclined to believe that it is related to an article in Science Daily called: “Despite Frustrations, Americans Are Pretty Darned Happy”

The article proudly stated “We’re number 16 … in world happiness. Feel the joy. The United States ranks ahead of more than 80 countries, but below 15 others in happiness levels, according to new World Values Survey data released in the July issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.”

The fact is that I in an earlier article addressed the World Values Survey (WVS) as I gave some pointers: WVS – another way of looking at cultures.

I am happy that the Americans are happy to be among the top 16 nations in world happiness. Dr. Inglehart argues that improving economic conditions and rising political and social freedom can improve satisfaction within whole societies long term.

For example, the United States, though ranking relatively high in many factors that contribute to happiness, has room for improvement in such areas as social solidarity and universal health coverage, says Inglehart. “To some extent, well-designed social policy can help raise U.S. happiness levels even more,” he says. “Policies that help increase the society’s sense of solidarity and tolerance may also help.” But, as the article clearly declares: “Even so, researchers note that wealth is important for happiness. Not surprisingly, three of the world’s poorer countries with long histories of repressive government–Moldova, Armenia and Zimbabwe–are at the bottom of the happiness list.”

As we all know; studies and polls can be interpreted and angled in many different ways no matter “how scientifically” the different measuring tools and surveys might have been designed. An observation that I want to give has to do with one of the graphs drawn by the organization which conducted this enormous research.

The ones scoring highest on the happiness scale, have according to the researchers also scored high on greater economic growth, it ranks relatively high in gender equality, tolerance of ethnic and social diversity and has high levels of democratization and political freedom.

My personal observation and question:

When looking at the graph below we see that almost all of the highest ranking nations have a common history; they are historically protestant societies. Could it be that this fact has influenced and transformed the make up of the nations and its inhabitants to such degree that even now, after many years of secularization we still are reaping some of the positive and good fruit of this, (for many nations), once natural and fundamental ground for life, namely a personal faith in Jesus Christ?

Without a doubt we know that freedom, democracy, equality and tolerance have been advocated by these communities and believers… Economic growth has been a natural consequence as economic lift was experienced by people who had become believers throughout the history of the Church whether in their own or in the generations following them as they were taught to be good stewards of their abilities and possessions. Their lifestyle based on stewardship and accountability was changed with as result a greater economic responsibility and thus transformation.

Again… could this fact be the real reason behind our still positive outlook on life and expectancy even though we have in many different areas of life become secularized?

What do you think?

For me, this is the Way I see it!

John



Leadership in the church: dealing with the “hireling” mentality!

Two months ago I wrote a blog as a reaction on the article in Dagen about the fact that pastors were encouraged to become part of a union to secure their rights and jobs. My first blog was semi-seriously written (check it out here). However after today’s articles in Dagen (here and here) I want to add my side of the story.

The problem I see is that most pastors are regarded as employees of the church that they serve. The reason for that is because most pastors are hired by churches in order to fulfill a particular job description, much as is done in the business world. The way we look at this “job” might or might not be in line with the Biblical perspective on what a pastor is meant to be / do. In such situations a pastor is more inclined to compromise with any unbiblical expectations of his employer otherwise he/she might loose their job.

I know of numerous pastors in both small and larger churches where there are issues in regards to the application of Biblical standards within the congregation. The churches in Sweden acknowledge the pastor mainly as a “hireling” who is supposed to yield to the decisions being made by the eldership and/or board.

It is not uncommon that the established laymen leadership (elders and board) has allowed certain unbiblical practices in the church among lay leaders, themselves and its members, thus setting up a potential division between the new appointed (hired) pastor(s) and the congregation. It is not unusual that congregations seek to recruit for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires (2 Tim.4:3). The fact is that most established churches don’t want any new pastor to rock the boat; they want peace and rest, maintaining what is going on in the church by strengthening the present and maybe making manageable changes to embrace the future!

“The hireling mentality” as I described above however, also exists among pastors.

This becomes clear to me when pastors look for promotion opportunities rather than to grow and develop on a long term basis with the church they are called to serve. Some actually are self-interested, showing greater concern for their compensation package and the earthly security it supposedly brings than ministering to the body of believers they are called to serve (Jn.10:12,13).

The practice of regarding pastors as employees has not been the norm through the church’s history. Historically, pastors have not been considered to be employees, but bond-servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, they are slaves of Christ, not slaves to an employer.

My family and I have during 15 years lived and ministered without a regular salary. A couple of years after we started New Life Church (where I presently still am serving as a pastor), we received for the first time a part-time salary which as time passed has been raised and is a full-time salary today. Our church has well taken care of us although I for one, have been opposed to raising my salary at times because I preferred to use the money to provide support for other workers so that we could form a team. I consider myself a bond-servant to Christ and not an employee first of all (although legally I am in that position within the context of the Swedish society). So, in essence I am saying that you as pastor have to make a decision whether you are a “hireling” or have been “called” as a pastor! If you cannot exercise the gifts God has given you, or cannot minister as a pastor you might have chosen the wrong place to minister. (By the way; did you take the employment because a job was offered when you needed it, or was it a CALL from God?!)

Let’s face it; some pastors need to get rid of their hireling mentality, but so do some churches!

I have friends in churches where they receive very little support and encouragement from the congregations they serve. They experience that they have minimal impact in the direction of the church’s ministry and often find themselves on the receiving end of hurtful criticisms. Others are inadequately compensated and feel little appreciation for the important work that they do on behalf of the church. Expressions of discouragement and unhappiness are not uncommon, and for some, ministry is no longer a sense of calling from God nor a source of joy and satisfaction in their life!

Do members understand the concept of being a people of God?

Much of how we relate to our pastors depends on how we as individual members understand our relationship to the life of the church and its ministries. Are we essentially religious consumers who see ourselves as being receivers of ministry, or do we understand ourselves to be part of the people of God who partner and who have a vital role in helping to fulfill the church’s collective ministry? Do we see our pastors as employees who are paid to serve to congregational customers or as spiritual leaders whose ministries of the Word of God and their leadership enables us to better fulfill our ministries of service and proclamation in the world?

Our answer to those questions makes all the difference in the world when it comes to determining our expectations of the pastoral ministry and those who are called to serve within it. Our pastors are neither self-made nor self-maintained.

They need to be supported, encouraged and affirmed. And when we neglect that important work, we pay a very heavy collective price. I’ve never known a church whose spirit, enthusiasm and commitment to ministry exceeded that of its leadership. I’ve never experienced a vibrant, flourishing congregation whose pastor wasn’t also receiving generous amounts of prayerful support and encouragement from its members!

Remember, it’s not simply a matter of getting the kind of leadership we deserve. It’s more a matter of receiving precisely the kind of leadership we choose to call forth and then support.

That’s the Way I see it,

John

Dagens Nyheter puts Li Changqing the 2008 Golden Pen of Freedom price winner behind bars…

Dagens Nyheter puts Li Changqing, a Chinese journalist, who went to prison for reporting on a health threat before Chinese authorities announced it, who had been awarded the 2008 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers behind bars. Papers from all over the world as well as in Sweden (here, here, here, here and here) took the opportunity to high-light this occasion and to use it to expose the censorship and suffering that many undergo in China because of their opinions and writings.

Ironically the same accusations against freedom of press which are made against the Chinese regime are practiced by so-called ambassadors of freedom, namely Dagens Nyheter. (The largest daily paper in Sweden which prouds itself to be one of the forerunners of freedom of Press!) DN puts Li Changqing behind invisible bars as they silence him and remove from his statement that which doesn’t fit them.

This is typically an occasion of so called freedom of speech and writing which I addressed the other day in a blog called “Is freedom of speech in Sweden a farce?”

In the blog I wrote: “The rights of freedom of speech and press are practiced as long as we conform to that which is the norm, as long as we are politically correct, our voices will be heard through the spoken and written word. If we don’t conform we are silenced, ignored or attacked.”

In the case of Li Changqing DN says that they published the whole text of his address. THIS IS NOT TRUE, The Christian Daily Dagen identified this as a problem! DN removed the text where Li Changqing shares about his dark hours and how Jesus Christ turned his life around.

He said: “In 1992, my life had also welcomed a great event when I, extremely weak and dark in my spiritual world, became a Christian due to the compassion of Jesus Christ. He restored my conscience, allowing me to walk in the light. He rectified the relationship between my world and my spirit and with an insight coming from above helped me traverse obstacle after bewildering obstacle for a more penetrating view of the world. Hence, I am convinced that only the truth can save us! Only with the truth can we surpass narrow partisan doctrines and break through ideological barriers”.

It is obvious that DN thinks this is not politically correct or not within their perception of what they want to endorse or allow their readers to read! Wow! That’s called outright censorship!

For the whole text in English of Li Changqing’s address click here.

Unfortunately I get only confirmed in my views on press and media in our nation. This shows again how we in a small country can be really small in mind! Let the Truth be heard on the streets!

That’s the Way I see it!

John






Churches and Christianity bad examples of integration. Is Sunday morning 11.00 am the most segregated hour of the week among Christians?

I could not resist responding to the articles about Gnosjö, the municipality in Sweden which is best at integrating immigrants. See Dagen, Expressen, Svenska Dagbladet and Fokus.

Every fourth citizen in that municipality is of foreign decent and employment rate among them is 62%, to be compared with the 42,7% average in the nation.

As I read the articles of the different papers reporting about this phenomenon I was reminded of the rather scaring reality of lack of integration as is found in the Christian Church in Sweden.

Most probably we find that 11.00 am is the most segregated hour of the week among Christians. With the rapid changes in our society and the influx of immigrants among us, many Christians from a number of African, Eastern Europe, Asian and South American nations have established themselves in our nations and have started many different ethnic churches to worship together and to meet the needs of fellowship they were (are) experiencing. While many of them (like in Gnosjö) are integrated in society, through jobs, schooling, and other social networks we find that, most often, the Swedish churches seemed to be places where time has stood still. The “middle class traditional Svensson church” which is still living in the midst of last century is still the face of Christianity to the outside world while our society has changed drastically!

My inner conviction is that the Church has to reflect the reality of society in which it is established. If there is one place where the walls between peoples and cultures could (should) be eliminated it should be the Church! If there is one place in our nation where bridges could be build between peoples and cultures it should be the Church! Jesus Christ has broken down the walls between us and God and us and each other, yet, so many of us Christians, all in our little groups and too often on the fringes of society seem to huddle together in search for security and cultural oneness instead of exposing ourselves to the tremendous manifold wisdom and diversity of God as expressed to the people whom He created in His image!

A church which does not reflect that reality and diversity is for me not a trustworthy church (unless located in places where there is no cultural diversity, or, when as exception if there is no opportunity to relate in each others language which can be the case with first generation immigrants).

In the Focus article mentioned above, the heading expresses it so well: “All are needed in Gnosjö”! If we in the Christian Church only understood the importance of this and were more inclusive and inviting to brothers and sisters and non-Christian friends from different nations we would not only help to create a home and haven for many people. We would (finally) become that colorful reflection and expression of God’s image and purpose where everyone is needed instead of being a bleak, pale and predictable religious entity un-relevant to the people in Sweden today!

That’s the Way I see it, what do you see?

John

PS The lack of integration goes both ways, but as inviting nation I think we should extend the hand of welcome, expand our hearts to them and open our homes! DS

The Jesusmanifestation which was held last Saturday on May 3 was one way to include them, a good start, but only the small beginning!


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