Israel and the Rest of the Middle East Might be Uninhabitable by the End of the Century

The last seven years have been the hottest on the record. The situation is the worst for the Middle East, which is heating up twice as fast as the world average.

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More and more researchers now believe that the Middle East will become largely uninhabitable by the end of the century if powerful political measures do not put an end to climate change.

And that includes Israel.

The Israeli parliament The Knesset recently declared climate change a national security threat. Galit Cohen, Director-General of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said: “We are in a Hot Spot that will be hit hard, and parts of the country can become uninhabitable areas.”

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Civilization originally arose in the Middle East, but now it might disappear from the region. The waves of refugees we see today are tiny  compared to the hundreds of millions of climate refugees that the coming decades risk bringing with them.

Isn’t it ironic that many evangelicals claim to care deeply about the nation and people of Israel, yet ignore how climate change might destroy the nation and people of Israel? A survey from 2014 showed that white evangelicals in the US are the least likely to be concerned over climate change.

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There is no biblical reason for this. The Bible never says that climate change isn’t real or should not be prevented. The only reason white evangelicals think like this is that they view allegiance to the Republican party as important, which in turn has been highly influenced by science denial promoted by the fossil fuel industry with millions of dollars.

And so in a disturbing twist of fate, many evangelicals support extremist politicians like Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro claiming that they are “pro-Israel”, when in fact their policies might be what ultimately destroys Israel as a nation. Once again. these words written by Jeremiah 2,600 years ago, might be sung in Jerusalem:

“The old men are no longer gathered in the city gate, and the young men’s music has ceased. Joy is gone from our hearts, our dance has turned to sorrow … Mount Zion lies desolate, jackals roam about there. But you, Lord, reign forever “Your throne is from generation to generation.” (Lamentations 5)

But not on our watch. The good news is that the catastrophic scenario of an empty Middle East is still preventable, given that we manage to adjust our lifestyle and our communities to sustainability and a fossil-free reality during the coming eight years. We need help to do this – from each other and from God.

There is still time to act, so let’s act!

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author, and editor for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The Messy, Dirty, and Beautiful Birth of Jesus

by Greg Boyd, originally published on his blog and in the Minnesota Christian Chronicle, Volume #28 No.21, December 3, 2006.

Few things capture the spirit of Christmas better than a traditional nativity scene for many people. The star shines down on the serene baby Jesus, sleeping in a nice little manger with golden straw spilling out from the edges. He’s surrounded by Mary, Joseph, three wise men and several shepherds. They are all radiantly peaceful as they gaze in wonder at the newborn Christ child. Even the animals lying in their nice clean hay seem almost Spirit-filled as they look serenely upon the infant Savior. As the song goes, even when the cattle start lowing and the poor baby wakes, the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes. It’s a cute, quaint scene, capturing the spirit of a cute, quaint holiday.

Now, I don’t mean to be a scrooge, and I’m not suggesting there’s anything heretical about this cute, quaint scene. I’m all for tradition – our family sets up a nativity every year. On the other hand, I think it’s important to realize that this scene is not completely accurate.

Try to imagine for a moment how things most likely unfolded the night Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph were probably teenagers when they traveled to Bethlehem, for in first century Jewish culture girls were usually engaged around the age of 12 or 13 and boys around 16 or 17. The two were undoubtedly exhausted from their long journey when they arrived at the inn, but all the rooms were taken. The two decided to bed down with the animals in the inn’s stable, which must have been an act of utter desperation (was Mary beginning to have contractions?). They really had no choice, since the possibility of Mary giving birth in public was (especially in first century Jewish culture) completely unthinkable.

Plus, an early church tradition tells us that the stable was a cave, a suggestion many scholars find plausible. So the young, unwed mother and her fiancé make their way to this cave, which was probably animal-packed if the inn was full. We should probably imagine these two exhausted and desperate teenagers squeezing past livestock, stepping over animal droppings, making their way to a corner of an unventilated, smelly, dimly lit cave so Mary can have her baby with some degree of privacy.

Suddenly the manger scene is beginning to look a bit less cute and quaint.

Nativity scene in an Iraqi refugee camp

Now try to imagine what the actual process of giving birth might have been like. Even with the best preparation and medical assistance, the birthing process is painful, “messy” and, at times, terrifying. Yet, Mary and Joseph would have had little preparation, and likely no medical assistance. They were alone.

When the child was born, they placed him in a manger – which in this context can only refer to a trough the animals ate or drank from. This certainly couldn’t have been their first choice! It’s hard to imagine anyone remaining calm and serene given these circumstances.

If even half of these assumptions are accurate, they suggest a nativity scene that was much less cute and quaint than what we traditionally picture. We should imagine two desperate, exhausted teenagers passed out on bloody, manure-filled hay in a crowded, smelly, dark cave while their baby sleeps – and sometimes wails – in a slimy feeding trough. The original audiences of the Gospels would probably have imagined something like this, and it would have shocked them. I believe this is a central point of the story.

Our God uses his almighty power to dive into the worst this world has to offer. He dives into the shame of an unwed Jewish mother. He dives into the rejection of an already-full inn and the darkness, odor and inconvenience of an overcrowded stable. He dives into the desperation and fear of a young, ostracized couple. He dives into our humanity; and not humanity at our best, but humanity at our worst. He’s not a God who gravitates toward the cute and the quaint, but a God who immerses himself in our mess, our manure, our pain, our fear, our sin and our shame.

He is a God who takes on himself everything that is shockingly ugly and redeems it all – and by doing so, he reveals himself to be a God who’s shockingly loving and beautiful.

This Christmas if you set up a nativity scene, don’t worry too much about what it looks like. There’s a place for tradition, and I doubt many stores sell “realistic” manure-filled caves to put on your end table! But remember that our God isn’t cute and quaint. He is a God who’s beautiful because he takes on our shocking ugliness and lovingly transforms us.

And I’ll take that Christmas story over cute and quaint any day.

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues.

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Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Advent Practices for Spiritual Resiliency

These past two years have put an incredible strain on Christians working for God’s peace and justice. In my own experience, I have seen too many pastors and faith activists worn down by spiritual burnout. Of course there is no easy fix, no single factor that will “solve” our current personal and social crises. But I personally have found strength and renewal while at my most despairing when I have opened myself to the Holy Spirit and let Her work renewal in me.

Advent is almost upon us. Christians worldwide will enter into a season of expectant hope–hope that comes only through the flesh-and-blood entry of God into our world through Jesus. What better time to open ourselves to the hope-filled renewal of the Holy Spirit?

This desire for the Spirit to fill and guide us inspired me to contribute to a spiritual practice-centered Advent calendar with Red Letter Christians UK. Each day has a reading, reflection, or practice to help ground spirit-led justice activists in God’s healing, renewing presence. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, I invite you to join us in a season of expectant hope, against all odds.

The calendar is free to download, copy, share, and print, provided you do not sell it for profit. It is designed for either personal devotion or to share in together as a faith community (especially the candle lightings each Sunday). You can learn more about the calendar and download it here. I hope it blesses you this season.

Faith Van Horne is a doctoral researcher in Theology and Religion at University of Birmingham, UK.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The Best Thing You Can Do for the Climate is Probably the Opposite of What You Think

What is the most effective thing you can do as an individual to counteract climate change? According to a new opinion poll from Kantar Public, most westerners don’t know the true answer. Not only that – they believe the exact opposite of what is true.

According to residents of ten western countries, including the United States, Germany, and Sweden, recycling is the most common answer to what is “very important” for improving the climate, while reduced consumption and reduced meat consumption are the least common answers. Even reduced car use and flying were rarely described as very important by the respondents.

This is almost as if most people would walk around thinking that the most effective thing they can do to cross the Atlantic Ocean is to travel with a bamboo raft.

Four years ago, a study was published at Lund University that showed which individual life choices lead to the greatest reduction in one’s greenhouse gas emissions. It states that a year’s plant-free diet free of animal products is four times more efficient than recycling, refraining from a single transatlantic flight is eight times more efficient and living car-free for a year is eleven times more efficient.

Recycling may be useful, but it can certainly not be classified as the most important climate measure. Why then do most westerners claim that this is the case? Lobbying from the meat, car and aerospace industries is, of course, a culprit in the drama, as is the political rhetoric that, for fear of losing votes, often unscientifically insists that we maintain our food and transport habits.

But the study from Kantar also showed that an important factor is convenience. 74 percent of those surveyed said they were “proud” of what they are already doing for the climate—which I guess includes a lot of recycling. Instead of finding out what actually saves lives, you tell yourself and others that what you are already doing is the best possible.

We often assume that people first become convinced of things on an intellectual level, and then adapt their lifestyle accordingly. Sometimes it is so – I myself became an environmental activist after I had read about the state of the world in books – but it is at least as common that our opinions are adapted to how we live and what social contexts we belong to.

No wonder Jesus insisted that his disciples follow him, rather than just believing on a theoretical level.

Of course, opinion formation still has an important role to play, especially when it is now so clear that even many who are not climate threat deniers believe in ill-founded myths. But people need to be doers of the word, not just hearers, to quote the letter of James.

What is needed are communities where plant-based diets and car-free lives are as common and natural as recycling cardboard packaging. Research shows that people find it much easier to change their lifestyle when they do it in groups.

Here, the churches have a fantastic opportunity to step forward as such norm-changing communities. Just imagine what would happen if the world’s two billion Christians decided to live sustainably tomorrow.

Climate change would literally be over in just a day. So what are we waiting for?

Micael Grenholm is editor and contributor for PCPJ.

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Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Humanity’s Sin Against the Animals

By Greg Boyd, originally published on his blog ReKnew.

While the mustard seed of the Kingdom has been planted, it obviously hasn’t yet taken over the entire garden (Matt 13:31-42). We continue to live in an oppressed, corrupted world. We live in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet.”

Not only this, but we who are the appointed landlords of God’s earth continue to live in rebellion against God and abuse our God-given authority over the earth. Our first mandate included taking care of the earth and animals, and I’m convinced this continues to be a foundational benchmark for how we’re doing as a human race. Unfortunately, this benchmark suggests we aren’t doing well at all.

For example, it’s well known that the welfare of the earth’s ecosystem significantly depends on tropical rain forests. Yet we are currently cutting down an area of tropical forest the size of Greece each year. Some estimate that up to 80% of the earth’s rain forests have already been lost, the majority in the last 100 years.

So too our apathy toward the environment as well as toward the suffering of the poor is largely to blame for the current clean-water crisis humanity faces. All told, approximately 10 million people die each year because their water is unclean.

Our care for animals is even more dismal than our care for the land, in my estimation. Largely due to our poor stewardship, thousands of species of animals have already become extinct or are being pushed to the brink of extinction. According to most experts, the population of over half of all animal species are in decline. Some estimate that in the next 30 years as many as one-fifth of all species living today will become extinct.

But in my opinion, the single most telling piece of evidence that shows how poorly we’re manifesting our call to care for animals is the creation of factory farms. More than 26 billion animals each year are forced to live in miserable, over-crowded warehouses, where there is absolutely nothing natural about their existence and where they are subjected to barbaric, painful, industrial procedures.

We are falling far short of the benchmark, and we, the earth, and animals are suffering as a result.

Being a follower of Jesus gives us no special wisdom to resolve the complex issues that we face regarding how we care for the earth and animals. The answers of the Kingdom are not found in voting one way or another, in boycotting certain industries, or various other activist approaches.

While I’m not opposed to these activities, followers of Jesus are called to live in a way that reflects God’s original design for human dominion while revolting against everything that is incongruous with this design. Regardless of what scientific or political opinions may be in vogue, our call remains the same. We’re to manifest God’s care for the earth and demonstrate God’s merciful love toward animals.

This means that we must think critically about things like the energy we consume, the water we use and the waste we throw away. It means we must be informed about the effects our lifestyle choices—and eating choices—have on the earth and on animals.

Insofar as it is possible, we’re to manifest—in the present—the harmonious relation between God, humans, animals, and the earth that will characterize the cosmos when the Kingdom is fully come. This is a fundamental aspect of what it means to be part of a Kingdom that manifests the beauty of God’s original design for creation while revolting against everything that corrupts it.

—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Religion, pages 148-151.

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues.

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Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Why Millionaire Televangelist Kenneth Copeland is Suddenly Begging You for Money to Buy His Fourth Private Jet

The prosperity preaching televangelist and multimillionaire Kenneth Copeland has stirred a lot of controversy lately. He tried to blow away the coronavirus, was one of the first pastors to deny that Joe Biden won the election (in an extremely bizarre way) and now he is begging people who are millions of dollars poorer than him for a new private jet.

Now, if you’re familiar with Copeland you know that he already has a private jet. In fact, he has three. He stores them at an airport called Kenneth Copeland Airport, right next to his million-dollar mansion in Texas.

The motivation he recently gave at the extremist Christian show Flashpoint is that he can’t fly commercial because he refuses to get vaccinated for Covid and many airlines require vaccination these days. “That’s the mark of the Beast”, he said.

This is clearly not the real reason Kenny is begging for your money, as there are several airlines in the US that does not require vaccination (even though it definitely can be argued that they should), and we know that Copeland argued against flying commercial long before the pandemic in order to motivate his love for private jets. Then, the reason was that that commercial planes are “tubes full of demons“.

The real reason Copeland is acting like this is, I think, that his self-worth is in those jets, they communicate success to himself and to a huge part of his audience. Practically, he doesn’t need four private planes any more than you and me, but on an existential and spiritual level he they are like oxygen to him. He is terrified of the thought of not being able to buy luxuries and status objects with other people’s money, since he himself has been preaching for decades that such a lifestyle is the ultimate evidence that God is with you.

It is just as the apostle Paul expressed it thousands of years ago:

“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this!” – 1 Timothy 6: 9-11

Kenneth Copeland is stuck in this trap of wealth, and it is consuming him. Like most other preachers, he has likely lost a lot of income during the pandemic—he warned his audience early on that even if they lose their jobs, they should continue tithing.

I’m guessing most of them didn’t.

And as Kenny has become one of the primary laughing stocks on the internet due to his bizarre statements and performances, he has a hard time attracting a younger audience. His empire is crumbling, and it destroys his self-worth.

That is why his friend Jesse Duplantis lied about how gifts to Copeland’s will “speed up” Jesus’ return. In their world, that’s true. Now, I’m not defending this craziness. It is unbiblical, catastrophic spiritual abuse. But my point is that these men are broken, afraid and have plunged themselves into ruin and destruction, and they’re so addicted to their wealth that they think that only more wealth can solve their problem.

We need to pray for them, for healing and repentence. But whatever you do, don’t give these millionaires more money. That’s just like handing a bag of cocaine over to a drug addict.

Micael Grenholm is editor and contributor for PCPJ.

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Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

“Kill them all, and let God sort them out” – Why Evangelicals’ Reaction to 9/11 Went so Wrong

20 years ago, Al Qaida killed 3,000 civilians through terror and fire. That was a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

In response, the USA started two wars that have killed 70,000 civilians in Afghanistan and 200,000 (!) in Iraq. Thousands of them were children.

That was also a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

Shane Claiborne is an activist and theologian who had wise things to say concerning the violent aftermath of 9/11. From his book The Irresistible Revolution (2nd edition, pp. 185-187):

When Kingdoms Collide

Shortly after September 11th, I traveled to speak to a large congregation in the Midwest. (And no, it wasn’t Willow Creek.) Before I got up to preach, a military color guard presented the US flagat the altar. The choir filed in one-by-one, dressed in red white, and blue, with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” playing in the background. I knew I was in big trouble. The congregation pledged allegiance to the flag, and I wished it were all a dream. It wasn’t. I got up to speak, thankful I was standing behind a large podium lest anyone try to pelt me with a pew Bible. I went forward to preach the truth in love with my knees knocking and managed to make it out okay with a bunch of hugs and a few feisty letters.

This is a dramatic (though painfully true) illustration of the messy collision of Christianity and patriotism that has rippled across our land. I thought this was an exceptional and dramatic example, but l’ve had same zingers since this. I spoke at a military academy where they had a full-on procession of military vehicles and weaponry. They fired cannons and saluted the flag, and then I got up to speak. I felt compelled to speak on the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), the things Scripture says God is like and we should hope to be more like.

I talked about how the fruit of the Spirit take training and discipline and are not always cultivated by the culture around us. Afterward, one young soldier came up to me, nearly in tears, and told me that as he heard the list of the fruit of the Spirit, it became clear to him that these were not the things he was being trained to become. We prayed together, and I think of him often. I know that young man is not alone.

I saw a banner hanging next to city hall in downtown Philadelphia that read, “Kill them all, and let God sort them out.” A bumper sticker read, “God will judge evildoers, We just have to get them to him.” I saw a T-shirt on a sold’ that said, “US Air Force … we don’t die; we just go to hell to regroup.” Others were less dramatic-red, white, and blue billboards saying, “God bless our troops.” “God bless America” became a marketing strategy. One store hung an ad in their window that said, “God bless America–$1 burgers.”

Patriotism was everywhere, including in our altars and church buildings. In the aftermath of September 11th, most Christian bookstores had a section with books on the event, calendars, devotionals, buttons, all decorated in the colors of America, draped in stars and stripes, and sprinkled with golden eagles.

This burst of nationalism reveals the deep longing we all have for community, a natural thirst for intimacy that liberals and progressive Christians would have done much better to acknowledge. September 11th shattered the self-sufficient, autonomous individual, and we saw a country of broken fragile people who longed for community–for people to cry with, be angry with, to suffer with. People did not want to be alone in their sorrow, rage, and fear.

But what happened after September 11th broke my heart. Conservative Christians rallied around the drums of war. Liberal Christians took to the streets … Many Christians missed the opportunity to validate both the horror of September 11th and outrage at war as a response to September 11th.

In the aftermath of September 11th, many congregations missed the chance to bear witness of God’s concern for the victims of the attack and God’s concern for the victims of the imminent war. Many of us hunkered down into familiar camps rather than finding a more creative way of standing with all who suffer. Many of the antiwar activists would do well to visit the memorial in NYC. And many of the war hawks would do well to visit the Ameriyah shelter in West Baghdad. Every life lost is reason for grief and outrage.

The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you dress a wound.

A people longing for a savior placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength, which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God.

Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President. His newest book is Executing Grace: Why It is Time to Put the Death Penalty to Death.

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Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The kingdom of God – a dance parade

This text was originally published on PCPJ:s Swedish sister blog Hela Pingsten, and translated from Swedish by Karin Ranieli.

I see a people dancing along a long, straight road. Their voices form a chorus of praise to the king who gave his life to set them free. 

Along the road there are lots of little stalls and shops. They are all arranged in such a way that the dancers can look inside and see all the thrilling goods and shining things for sale. The salesmen are also turned towards the throngs of people and have exciting offers: ”Take a thing now, pay later!” ”Have a look around!”, ”Come, satisfy and fulfill all your dreams!”.  Beautiful clothes of the latest fashion. Sparkling jewels. Delicious foods as far as the eye can see. But strange things were also for sale. High positions. Power. Glory. Bodies.

Entrances were made to walk into, but not to find one’s way out. The shelves in the shops lead you into alleys, backstreets and sidetracks. And there, people live in darkness.

Some people in the jubilant parade get curious and stop at the sight of something interesting. Others take a few steps further in. Still others try on different things and even start shopping, but some of them soon regret it all and find their way back to the parade. Because they have seen something far better than every tempting thing trying to get their attention. They have their eyes fixed on the destination: the horizon far ahead, the shining bright sun with sunbeams shining on the road they are walking on. They know that it gives far more joy and deeper peace than anything the world has to offer. You can tell it by their looks!

Those still living in darkness now and then see the light in their faces and repent. Sometimes greedy salesmen can see their sincerity and are drawn to them. People are caught up by the whirl of happiness and leave all their possessions behind. Even those whose families want to stay on, still choose to leave. Some dancers have to endure mockery, beatings and persecution from those who remain, since they love darkness. But it rarely keeps the dancers from continuing. For the light carries them!

And it does not stop there. The people are not just dancing for themselves. The light that they are receiving wants to shine into the darkest backstreets. And so many dancers let themselves be led there. Once there, they share their plasters, their food and drink and their shoes with all those in need. They chant out stories of what they have seen and experienced and invite those listening to dance with them. Whenever someone joins them, they are met with rejoicing. And all around them beauty is bursting forth where beauty has not been seen before, life is born from what used to be dead and darkness is driven away by light. 

The parade consists of all kinds of people: women and men, rich and poor. But they are all broken. They all have scars – some have many scars and others just a few scars and they long for the complete healing. Some are heavily burdened, while others have let go of their burdens along the way, received lighter clothing from above and so can dance more quickly and easily. But the most important thing is not how fast one can move but in what direction. If you try a move that has not been given to you, one which is too difficult or too fast, you are in danger of stumbling and falling. But if you stay on the road, there is always strength to get up. Indeed, sometimes you need help, even a lot of help. Hands reach out, eyes see and ears listen. The wind caresses cheeks, opens lungs and breathes in new life. And when you raise your eyes once more, you can brush off the dirt.

Love is what most of all characterizes them. It sets their hearts on fire and encourages them to give their lives for each other.  It shapes them into one people under one and the same king, one family with one and the same Father, one temple for one and the same Spirit, one bride to one and the same Christ. 

————

A year ago or so I had a vision of the coming of the kingdom of God, born out of a longing to see the church transformed. The above text is an attempt to share what I remember from my vision with some creative additions. I hope this will inspire you!  

Why People Look for the “Mark of the Beast”

by Ramone Romero.

I’ve written before about the “mark of the beast”, but it seems that every few years, especially around election cycles or the advent of some new technology, some Christians see circumstances that they believe will lead to “the mark of the beast” from Revelation 13. 

So here are some thoughts about “the mark” versus the gospel of Christ’s love. Because the common understanding of “the mark” is not compatible with the gospel. One will invariably overtake the other in the end.

Did Monster Energy Drink Hide Satanic Symbols on Their Cans?
Attempt at showing that the Mark of the Beast is energy drinks

1. The Dividing Issue

Firstly, the crux of “the apocalypse”, the central issue, the great “controversy”, is about Christ’s love.

It’s not about some overlooked ritual, the knowledge of a more correct doctrine, name, or command.

Instead it’s what sounds so simple, too simple, too elementary. It’s what the apostles proclaimed from the beginning, and what they wrote “we are nothing” if we do not have.

It’s not about the mere profession of the name of Jesus Christ, for he said that in the end many will call him “Lord, Lord” but will not do what he commanded them to do. (And we’ve seen that all too often throughout history, up to the present day.)

It’s not about proclaiming the doctrines of the gospel *unless* that gospel is backed up with living out grace in love for others. Of course many of Christ’s statements about himself offended religious leaders, and his miracles offended them, too. But what upset and offended them most was in all of those things he was giving grace and mercy, proclaiming God’s justification and love for the “sinners” that they felt above, for people they believed were undeserving.

Continue reading Why People Look for the “Mark of the Beast”

Will Jesus Wage a Literal War According to Revelation?

By Greg Boyd, originally published on his blog ReKnew.

In an interview several years ago for Relevant Magazine, Mark Driscoll (well known pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle) said,

“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” (You can find the original interview here).

I frankly have trouble understanding how a follower of Jesus could find himself unable to worship a guy he could “beat up” when he already crucified him. I also fail to see what is so worshipful about someone carrying a sword with “a commitment make someone bleed.”  But this aside, I’m not at all surprised Driscoll believes the book of Revelation portrays Jesus as a “pride fighter.”  This violent picture of Jesus, rooted in a literalistic interpretation of Revelation, is very common among conservative Christians, made especially popular by the remarkably violent Left Behind series.

The most unfortunate aspect of this misreading, as Driscoll’s comment graphically reveals, is that the “pride fighter” portrait of Jesus easily subverts the Jesus of the Gospels who out of love chooses to die for enemies rather than use his power against them and who commands his followers to do the same (see e.g. Mt 5:43-45Lk 6:27-36). In fact, if you read these passages carefully you’ll notice that Jesus makes loving enemies and refusing all violence the prerequisite  for being considered a child of God! Loving enemies like Jesus commands (and like the rest of the NT teaches, e.g. Rom. 12: 1417-211 Pet 2:21-23) requires that we crucify our fallen impulse to resort to violence, while the model of Jesus as a “pride fighter” with a “commitment to make someone bleed” allows us to indulge it. If we can dismiss the peace-loving Jesus as a “hippie, diaper, halo Christ,” then we’re free to wish and even inflict vengeance on our enemies all we like — and feel righteous about it!

Continue reading Will Jesus Wage a Literal War According to Revelation?

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice