Tag Archives: jesus

Neverland – ingenmansland

Follow the link to read the Swedish version of Neverland which was published today in “Världen Idag” Other media have written their parts: here, here, here and here.

“Alla försöker att utnyttja hans död men få försöker redovisa en ärlig bild av en man vars liv präglades av brustenhet, identitetskriser och udda utspel”. Läs mer: länk.

Be in touch! John

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Är inte Immanuel 153 en församling?

Idag läste jag en artikel i Dagen som reste några frågor… Jonas Eveborn från Immanuel 153 ”lämnar sin tjänst för att bli församlingspastor”. Han lämnar sin tjänst som pastor för att bli församlingspastor…???

Kanske har mina frågor att göra med min oförmåga att kommunicera på svenska men är inte Immanuel 153 en församling? Citat: ”153 som en gemenskap som vill vara både inåtriktad och utåtriktad, liturgisk och karismatisk på en och samma gång, och som bygger en gemenskap som inte enbart räcker ett par timmar på söndag eftermiddag. – Vi vill vara en gemenskap som är bärande och där vi bygger relationer samtidigt som vi gör något gott”. Är detta inte en församling?

En annan fråga som kommer upp genom artikeln är hur 153 kan fortsätta… Även om jag själv inte har besökt 153 har jag fått veta genom olika vänner hur viktigt 153 är och hur många har hittat ett andligt hem i denna gemenskap. Immanuel 153 omfattar 250 personer… Varför kommer då frågan upp om man kan bära ett ekonomiskt ansvar för 153s pastor(er) eftersom Immanuel kyrkans ekonomi är ansträngt? Ursäkta mig, men om man betjänar 250 personer ska inte dessa ta ansvar för sina pastorer? Enkel matematik… om 40 av dessa ger sina tionden kan man utan problem avlöna en pastor på heltid… även om alla skulle vara studenter som ger sitt tionde skulle 50 personer räcka till en heltidslön.

Eller är givande i församlingarna ett problem? Jonas Melin på sin blog anser det tror jag… Jag tycker att Immanuel ska bekräfta det som händer i 153 genom att frigöra ännu mer resurser. I en tid som denna där få av våra visioner blir verklighet ska vi lyfta fram det som Gud gör bland oss och stödja det med alla våra möjligheter och resurser!

Så ser jag på det!

John

A manifesto from the “Christian left” – have they “left” the Christian perspective?

Representatives from a so-called Christian wing in the Social Democratic Party called Broderskapsrörelse (the brotherhood movement) have come out of their closet presenting a manifesto which really offers nothing new under the sun, they endorse the viewpoints of their party comrades rather than any self-respecting Christian. The title of their manifesto states that greed should not rule a society… a rather important issue nowadays which I addressed in my blog many times. However their focus in not on this issue, they join in with the large majority of the Swedish population which endorses a politically correct view on condemning all these horrible right wing Christians who still believe in the exclusive claims of the Bible and God of the Bible.

The debaters in Brännpunkt address the importance of freedom, equality and solidarity; which are the main slogans of a socialistic perspective. However, these are also the principles deeply rooted in the word of God; the Bible and the Christian Church. The other day I was talking to one of the former leading social democrats in our city. For a while we have built up a relationship which grows more in depth and where we share about our lives. A statement he made keeps ringing in my ears…”We, in the Democratic Party, have been very good in writing down principles and making laws… but you in the Free Church do the things we write and decide about!”

I think that statement is overdone quite a bit; there is so much we have to learn and we in the Christian Church have to repent from an egoistic life-style where greed rules in many of our decisions and ambitions. However, I do believe he touched on a glimpse of truth… freedom, equality and solidarity costs… because LOVE costs… “All love is good love” the debaters wrote… The Bible would be the first to refute that statement because the love which the Bible speaks about is the agape kind of love which Jesus addresses when they asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said, “‘Love (agapao) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love (agapao) your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-41)

The word agape refers to the self-sacrificing love of God for humanity, which they were committed to reciprocating and practicing towards God and among one another. This love has implications where truth and non-truth diverse their ways and where not anything is accepted and endorsed. Actually true love might affirm, comfort, direct, guide, disagree, but also confront and refute! The real essence of love is not to be able to accept everything, anything at any time… it is the ability to discern and act based upon a reality outside oneself based on an objective truth that is found in the Bible.

I do not agree with much that is identified as Christian right wing politics as exemplified in American politics… (more of that another time)… But the fact that I am identified with what the debaters call the Christian right wing in Sweden together with the Clapham institute is an honorable identification. And if we are the only ones in this society believing in certain of our convictions and viewpoints in regards to values, norms and praxis… so be it… I remember a man who in most of His views was against the norms and praxis of His society. Thinking of that fact I feel in great company!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Cut and paste theology – nothing new under the sun!

Many may find the approach of the post-modern, post-Christian person living in 2008 which practices a smorgasbord (pick and choose favorite dishes) in regards to theology difficult to understand. But the truth is (there we have that word again J)… there is nothing new under the sun!

Tomas Jefferson, one of the presidents of the United States compiled his own “wee little book” of 46 pages where he compiled the four Gospels into one text. He literally cut out verses and teachings that liked and placed them all in his book, it was “like finding diamonds in a dunghill” he said.

He literally sifted the Scriptures leaving out every miracle, every inconsistency (in his mind) and of course finishing off with Jesus’ burial rather than the resurrection.

“There is nothing new under the sun”; I have said this now a couple of times. In our world in 2008 we have many people, churches and denominations who sift out the parts of the Bible which are either politically incorrect, sensitive or just too tough to follow.

My stand? Bring it on…, all of it! I struggle with the Word of God, I have parts I strongly dislike, there are verses and stories that cut down to my bones and hurt my inner being, but… as I dare to embrace it, as I dare to face it. It gives me life in spite of the fact that I have to admit that something within me had to die first.

I guess that is what life with God is al about?!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

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

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

Lessons from history; Todd Bentley, Peter, Sadducees and Gamaliel in the Florida revival.

There is a reason for it… There is a reason for it that news about revival in Florida travels so fast all over the world. The tremendously intense TV covering by the God Channel watched by millions of people directly in their homes through TV channels and computers fills a void in the lives of Christians (and hopefully non-Christians) throughout the world. The fact that we can watch it “first-hand”, “live” brings reality closer to us. However, even that live connection is not close enough and droves of people from all nations of the world travel there to “get it” to hopefully “bring it home”.

The fact that we live in a global world and that those of us in the West live in tremendous affluence makes it possible to experience matters in person. We can travel about anywhere we want and distance is only in your mind. This is one of the reasons why news about it spreads like fire across our planet.

The tremendous voids

There is another reason too for the quick spread of this phenomenon; the sheer absence of the super-natural, the power and the ever present need for EXPERIENCE (a main factor to be reckoned with in our Post-modern, Post-Christian Western world) in our churches has created a tremendous void. So when something supernatural happens we are overly focused on it because we are destitute for it.

As soon as things like this pop up (don’t forget that we have had the faith teaching, inner healing, the prophetic movement, Toronto, Pensacola etc.), the advocates/ambassadors get all excited trying to tell us why “this is it what God wants to do” and as a response to the (often) enthusiastic approach of them we set off the alarms so many other who approach these matters from totally different (often non-emotional) perspectives. They are seen as they pleasure killers of the Body of Christ and any question they might ask is considered criticism.

Fighting against God?

In the time of Jesus and the first church we all know that the Sadducees and Pharisees because of their religious and political power were threatened by the expressions and works of the Kingdom of God. (Acts 5:17 states that the Sadducees were filled with jealousy!) When the disciples were taken captive and brought before the Sanhedrin where they were asked to defend their case the Sanhedrin was so upset that some of their members wanted to kill the disciples (5:33). It was at that moment that a wise Pharisee took the word, NIV 5:34-39

But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Our history – let’s get our homework done!

I know we hate homework! But there is an important lesson to be learned from the history of the Early Church and even of our recent history in Sweden. The last 25 years have been characterized by people and churches taking standpoints for and against different phenomenon in the Body of Christ. (By the way, if the matters involve whether we are to preach God’s Word as absolute Truth, you will find me on the barricades too!)

But in most cases it had nothing to do with truth; it had to do with style, emphasis, and sometimes over-emphasis. People who had been touched by renewal, revival or the (re)discovery of old truths and ways of God have not always been wise and mature in passing on a blessing; instead the blessing became a curse as it divided the Body of Christ and brought hurts and rejection.

Do the experiences become the norm of church life?

If experiences of special touches and (re)discovered principles become the norm for church life in our time and Christian walk we will automatically build in the inability to be a church, or to be a trustworthy and relevant body of believers. If what we read in the Acts of the Apostles is to be the norm of church life for us today why is it that so few people die in the church in spite of their greed, or so few sell everything they have and give it to the church and the poor? Or why is there so little accountability and little openness and confession? Why are so few new people reached… the list can go on…

If we believe that God is doing something new, let us in humility and in accountability live out what God is teaching and giving us in such ways that we seek for opportunities to wisely implement what He is giving us. After all, if it is from God it will prevail and grow!

Let us with humility towards God, each other and the tradition to which we belong approach the works of God realizing that we here at this time and age “…see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”. (1 Cor 13:12)

That’s the Way I see it!

John

PS Accountability and openess is what it is all about!” Read> DS