Category Archives: Spirituality

Why the Cross Changes Everything

Every Good Friday I usually go outside to pray when the time is approaching 3 PM. That’s when he died. He who transformed my life.

There was a time when I didn’t care at all about Jesus. He was cool, sure, but he didn’t have as many superpowers as Superman and he was far less badass than Samus Aran. The church, in my opinion, was a boring museum. The Bible was hard to read and lacked pictures.

But when I was confronted with my own mortality and understood the message of Easter – that he died for us to live forever – then I could not get enough of him. I opened the gospels and read. I can honestly say that I have never encountered so much wisdom and love from any other person, before or after.

Some want to reduce Jesus to a non-divine moral teacher. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, it is impossible. A reasonable moral teacher does not claim to be the Son of God, the light of the world, and the door to eternal life – unless it is true.

But I understand why people recognize Jesus as wise and moral. He is! That’s what makes the painful killing of him so incomprehensible and wrong.

God died on that cross. God himself died for our sake so that we would have the eternal life we ​​in no way deserve. This eternal life, in eternal happiness, is greater than anything we can imagine. No other gift is so great and as wonderful as the gift of living in paradise.

All the peace and justice we long for will be realized to its fullest in heaven. That’s no reason to stop promoting such Kingdom-values here. On the contrary, when we truly have the eternal perspective we will become even more zealous to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As John says:

“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-2)

What I realized 13 years ago is that when we celebrate on Sunday that Jesus arose from death, it is not just that we are happy for His sake. His resurrection shows where we are going if we follow him. His path is the path of life. A life that never ends. It is because of his painful death on the cross that we can go that way.

Today at 3 PM, think of Jesus and pray to him. He loves you so much that he was subjected to one of the world’s most evil execution methods. He gave everything for you. You are too precious and loved to be lost in the bottomless darkness of death. God, your Creator and Friend, calls you to eternal happiness.

Micael Grenholm is the editor-in-chief 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 Church, Poverty and Domestic Violence

She came to our women’s Bible study one day. Her name was Linda, no on really knew her, no one was really sure how she found our Bible study. After coming a few times, she disappeared from our group. Krista, one of our members, had one of those impressions that she should call her. And Linda returned one day to tell us that her husband was going to kill her.

What to do, we were just a ladies Bible study untrained in such things. The Spirit prompted me to ask Linda if she had an escape plan. Together, we worked out a plan, set a date, vowed to secrecy. And we prayed.

That night our little Bible study group attended a local Revival meeting in a near by city. After the message we huddled together at the altar and once again prayed for our friend Linda. Corporately, we felt like the friends of the lame man who had broken a hole in the roof and lowered our friend before Jesus, the one who could actually heal and bring life… So we prayed into that Bible story.

On the set date, we gathered together, helped Linda pack up her things, picked up her daughter at school and began the journey toward the airport. We were stuffed together like sardines but we all wanted to be there to see Linda off.

We collected a little money and prayed one more time for safety.

Linda made it out finding freedom in a faraway city with her mother. But many do not find such freedom or safety. As a pastor, I regularly come across women stuck in poverty largely because of domestic violence or other forms of abuse. It’s staggering to me how many of them shared stories of how the church supported their abusers, believed the abuser, at the expense of theirs and their children’s well-being.

I currently serve in a city with a significant homeless population and it is startling to learn how many homeless people are women, often women with children. As I learn their stories and get to know them, I have discovered the role domestic violence plays in poverty and homelessness.

Even more curious is how the “Biblical” narrative about husbands being the head of the home feeds abuse and justifies the behavior of those who abuse. I hear story after story after story of how pastors have told victims of genuine abuse to go home, try to be a better wife and submit more to her husband or just give him more sex. One woman we helped went to a Biblical prayer counselor who in front of her husband told her she had a Jezebel Spirit. This fed the narrative her abuser was using to keep her in his control. Because this was offered as a “word” from the Lord, she was terrified that she would be going against God if she left.

There was a popular Deliverance Ministry–Bondage Breakers in the mid to late 90’s that proliferated the notion that if a woman was not submissive to her husband then the devil would attack her. This became embedded in various deliverance ministries around the nation. When an abuse victim and her husband sought prayer counsel, this “biblical” idea would surface keeping the abused person in further bondage and shame.

It is curious how little pastors and churches grasp the role of abuse and violence in poverty and homelessness. Instead, in our political dialogue, we lay the blame for poverty on laziness and lack of ambition. In reality poverty and homelessness related to domestic violence has nothing to do with laziness and lack of ambition. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on one night alone 55,000 beds in shelters across the country were set aside for homeless women affected by domestic violence. That number is staggering!

And I wonder how many more that night remained in their abusive home fearing that they and their children would end up without a home and in a shelter.

Here are some practical ideas that churches could do to help this crisis.

  1. Believe the one being abused. The body of Christ must stop with the teaching that women are easily deceived and that men are somehow less open to deception. This feeds the narrative that women are not reliable when they bring up abuse. I have observed that women go to their churches long after the abuse has begun. Often she has tried everything and suffered many years before she has mustered the courage to tell someone. In addition there is a psychology abusers use to gaslight and undermine a victim’s sense of reality making it harder for her to come forward.
  2. Give practical aid. Homelessness and domestic violence often stem from not being able to gather enough money to get into an apartment or rental. Often in situations when the victim finally leaves the abuse, she finds herself without enough money to pay a deposit and first months rent. It takes a few months to get rental assistance, childcare assistance, health care assistance and other helps. And this kind of assistance is needed just to climb out of homelessness. I don’t often find churches willing or able to provide much for transitional help. (We offered radical hospitality in our home for six months until victims were able to find work, get childcare and launch into self-support).
  3. Provide emotional support and prayer. Because of the psychology around abuse, emotional support and prayer are vital. Often women believe God has forgotten them or worse they are going against God when leaving the abuse. The gaslighting and emotional abuse has damaged the victim’s sense of self and decision making ability is diminished. Emotional and prayer support can help a sense of self re-emerge as emotions are validated and prayer is given.
  4. Include them in the church community. Often victims of abuse are excluded in the church community because there is yet a stigma around leaving one’s husband. Especially if the couple was a part of the community together. Often people have a hard time believing such things could happen among Christians and when the perpetrator is known it’s even more difficult. But being a part of a Christian community can be so healing if the victim is believed and supported. Often this is not the case and they are left wondering if God has abandoned them too.

Over the years, I have seen the hand of God moving mightily on behalf of victims of domestic violence. I know that he cares. Each time God brings another woman into my life, he speaks and lets me know what is needed. God also provides insight and resources in surprising ways. I know these women are on God’s heart even if they are not on the church’s hearts. The Army of Heaven is with them and we can join God in defeating this satanic system that keeps his beloved daughters from flourishing.

Pentecostal Spirituality: The Power to Practice (Not Just Believe)

By Elizabeth D. Rios, EdD, DMin (ABD)

I started this article a week ago, but felt something was missing. Today, I found it. I think it was holy indignation!

What sparked this holy anger?

Hearing a well-known, popular, nationally recognized Pentecostal preacher share (on an Instagram clip) on his pulpit that he hates politics. How he doesn’t give a rip about it. How he doesn’t care who is in charge.

He then goes on to say, “You know how we find our help, through Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, the power of the holy ghost. You get involved in that mess, you get involved in offenses. ‘That offends me, well I can’t believe…’ Who gives a rip what they say? I want to know what God says. I’ve lived long enough to be in a place where I am asking the question, is it going to be politics or Pentecost?”

To which you hear the congregation break out into applause. Although it wasn’t overwhelming applause there were still people who actually thought this was responsible preaching. Albeit, he’s been a pastor for decades (and I actually like and know him) but I had to hear it over a few times because I was sad and yes, mad over it. Continue reading Pentecostal Spirituality: The Power to Practice (Not Just Believe)

What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog as the second part of a series on Spirit empowering.

If the immediate expression of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was prophetic empowerment, the longer-range impact was a new community of believers who walked together in their lives and shared one another’s needs.

Much of Acts 2:41-47 follows the following structure:

A         2:41     Successful evangelism (3000 converts)

B         2:42     Sharing meals, praying together

C         2:44-45            Sharing possessions

B’        2:46-47a          Shared meals, worship

A’        2:47b   Successful evangelism

Whereas the conversions in 2:41 responded to Peter’s preaching, the conversions in 2:47 apparently responded to the life of the new community. Peter’s preaching explained divine signs at Pentecost; but the sacrificial love that Christians showed one another was no less divine, no less supernatural. Continue reading What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

Solidarity and Prayer: One Story

Maria wept as she shared the story of Mary and Joseph when they sought a place to stay in the city of Bethlehem. They had found no room at the inn. Maria shared the tradition of Posada in which the parents of Jesus looked for someone who would offer them hospitality and finding no one, they moved on to the next house also finding no welcome. Her voice was raw with emotion as she shared that Jesus–the one who dwelt within real people continued to seek hospitality in a world that offered him no welcome.

I wondered why this story brought up so much emotion in my friend. I didn’t ask, we had a hard time talking with one another due to a language barrier. I spoke little Spanish, and she spoke little English. Nevertheless somehow the Lord knit our hearts together with a deep love. A few years later, there was an ICE raid in our rural town and I was supposed to meet with Maria’s daughter for discipleship. The two girls in the group had frightened looks on their faces as Maria’s daughter explained that her mom was undocumented. We cried together and prayed. I ached inside as I witnessed the trauma experienced by my young friends.

From that moment on, Maria and her family were in my prayers. I often noticed a shadow of shame fall on her face. As Maria gained more English, we began to talk together about her immigration status. Often we gathered to pray together. Continue reading Solidarity and Prayer: One Story

One Common Myth about Spirit-Filled Christianity

by Andrew K. Gabriel.

Some Christians believe the myth that those who are really Spirit-filled will always experience victory. This belief is a cousin to the idea that if you have enough faith you will always experience health and wealth.

Just as faith doesn’t guarantee a life free of disappointments and hardships, the Spirit-filled life is not a life free of disappointments and hardships. Jesus is the epitome of spirituality, but he never became an earthly king. Instead, “through the eternal Spirit [he] offered himself unblemished to God” so his death might give us life (Hebrews 9:14).

In the Bible, “the one who is victorious” (Revelation 2:11) may suffer and face poverty (v. 9). Their victory is that they resist their culture’s anti-Christian values and are “faithful, even to the point of death” (v. 10). And their “victor’s crown” is eternal life, not achieving success in the eyes of the world around them (vv. 10–11). Continue reading One Common Myth about Spirit-Filled Christianity

Atonement and Sexual Assault: Redemption for the Sinned Against

The spate of recent headlines about sexual abuse and victimization in the Church have made clear the prevalence of these crimes. The revelation of decades of abuse by Southern Baptist pastors and complicity by denominational leaders is only the most recent example. Willow Creek Community Church is still addressing the reverberations of trauma surrounding accusations of harassment against women. Sexual abuse is rampant outside the church as well. According to statistics compiled by the Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in six women in the United States “has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).”[1]Much-needed discussion surrounding prevention and accountability in leadership is beginning to take place. Churches must also address how they treat women who have been sexually abused, both within and without the church.

In addition to these needed reforms, Christians must examine how our underlying theology may continue to damage victims rather than offer redemption. If what is preached from the pulpit, embodied in song and worship, and internalized by the congregation does not offer a message of hope and healing for those who have been abused, it is not the good news of Jesus Christ. In particular, our understanding of atonement—how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus brings us into reconciliation with God—must be examined carefully.
Continue reading Atonement and Sexual Assault: Redemption for the Sinned Against