How the Fig Tree that Jesus Cursed Represents Nationalism

by Faith Totushek.

Mark 11:12-22  tells us the remarkable account of the fig tree and the temple.  These stories are strung together to teach us a number of things about how our faith might be hi-jacked to represent not the character, image and heart of God but nationalism and earthly systems of power, oppression and corruption.

As Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, he notices a fig tree and examines it to see if there is fruit.  Finding no fruit, he curses it, saying, “may no one eat fruit from you again.”  What’s going on?  Why would Jesus do this?  What does he have against fig trees?  The cursing of the fig tree is a prophetic act that hints at what might happen in Jerusalem.

When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem he makes his way to the temple.  Actually, if you look at verse 11, you will notice that Jesus had been to the temple the night before but returned to where he was staying because it was late.  I find this curious, wondering if he took note of what was occurring in the temple and what it stood for and returned home to consider what he saw.

In the morning we see Jesus entering the Temple and driving out the animals and money changers and those who were selling animals for sacrifice.  And Jesus says this, “My house will be a house of prayer for all nations but you have made it a den of thieves.”  Was he concerned about selling stuff in the Temple?  Was he concerned that the activity would disrupt prayer time?  Seriously, this is how the account is often taught.

But there is some much deeper taking place. Continue reading How the Fig Tree that Jesus Cursed Represents Nationalism

The Micaiah of America

Photo from the Donald J. Trump state park, by Emily Guendelsberger.

An adaption of 1 Kings 22, by Ramone Romero.

The president of America brought together the prophets from the eighty percent of the house of the Lord who had supported him. He sought their blessing, their prayers, and their further support as he moved ahead with his plans to expel foreigners, tax the poor, favor the rich, exploit the environment, prepare for war, and more.

“Go forward,” the charismatic prophets answered, “for the Lord has given you victory.”

But someone asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”

The president answered, “There are still some, but I hate them because they never prophesy anything good about me, but always bad—fake news.”

So the president called one of his officials and said, “Bring me one of these. Bring me a Micaiah.” Continue reading The Micaiah of America

Hearing God’s Truth in Silence

For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  – 1 Cor 2:11

Hi. I’m (almost) 28 years old, I grew up in a Christian family, up until this day I have been part of six (!) different Pentecostal and Baptist churches, visited a lot more. A few years ago I took a one-and-a-half-year break from church life to retreat, refocus, re-scrutinize my life of faith. Oh, the questions from my brothers and sisters I had to answer during that time. I didn’t necessarily intend to go back to church life the way I was used to it (I did, but that is a different story). So, I really had a time off.

It felt like quitting an unwanted job, finishing school or ending a friendship that was no good to you. Suddenly there was a relief, like an invisible burden had been taken off of me. Which made me wonder what kind of burden I have dealt with. Such a big one, I know now.

Growing up in a Christian environment, I considered myself a spiritual person that is used to take part in church life. I attended Sunday service, ministered in worship, prayer, preaching, painting, cooking, cleaning, smiling, shaking hands… countless sermons I’ve heard, courses, classes, groups, I’ve attended. Nice things, you know. They helped me a lot along the way. Continue reading Hearing God’s Truth in Silence

‘Always Enough’: Basil of Caesarea and Sustainability

My reading gives me the impression that sustainability is being taken more seriously by Christians, particularly the ‘millennial’ generation. Sustainable living is a Christian calling, declares Calvin College.  Tearfund and the Jubilee Centre have produced five Bible studies on Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living. There is even a network of Christian leaders advocating sustainability: check out their webpage.

Basically put, sustainability is the belief that there are enough resources on earth to provide for its population, if only these resources could be used wisely and equally.  This clip from the Breathe Network will give you a flavour – read the comments too.

So, is this a new fad? Could it be that sustainability is in the New Testament mandate? It is certainly the thought behind 2 Corinthians 9:8. God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. Continue reading ‘Always Enough’: Basil of Caesarea and Sustainability

A Charismatic Christian Wishing He Were a Mennonite

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Aaron D. Taylor

My name is Aaron D. Taylor and I’m a charismatic Christian. If you ever see me driving with my glasses on, I may look dignified, but don’t let my appearance fool you. Throughout my life I’ve been slain in the Spirit and drunk in the Holy Ghost on numerous occasions. I’ve felt the anointing, laid hands on the sick, cast out devils, and been prophesied over countless times.

It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my Pentecostal/charismatic skin, but I can honestly say today that I wouldn’t trade my Pentecostal/charismatic heritage for anything. I’ll admit it’s been a very long time since I’ve “shaken under the power” or “danced in the Spirit”, but to this day I pray in tongues, lay hands on the sick, and if I ever need to get the devil off my back, I’ll gladly pull out the “Sword of the Spirit” and start quoting Scripture. We Pentecostals and charismatics have a lot to be proud of. We were a miniscule, lower class fringe movement 100 years ago and now there are over 600 million of us around the world!

So why do I wish I were a Mennonite? Yesterday was my 30th birthday and when I think about the past 30 years of history, on nearly every moral issue that speaks to how Christians are supposed to live as a peculiar people surrounded by a godless culture, the Mennonites have been right and we’ve been wrong. While charismatic leaders were “naming and claiming” plush clothing, fancy cars, and million dollar mansions, Mennonites were teaching their children to live simply so that others could simply live. While charismatic leaders were petitioning the government to keep under God in the pledge of allegiance, Mennonites were warning their children about the dangers of nationalism. While charismatic leaders were building “apostolic networks” to win the world for laissez-faire capitalism, Mennonites were sharing possessions, building communities, and identifying with the poor. While charismatic leaders were putting bowling alleys and coffee shops in their multi-million dollar church buildings”, Mennonites were providing a decent living for third world farmers by setting up international co-ops and selling fair trade coffee. Continue reading A Charismatic Christian Wishing He Were a Mennonite

The Anti-Community Conspiracy in Biblical Scholarship

Extremely few Protestants live in a community of goods similar to that of the apostolic church in Acts 2 and 4. In fact, many Protestant denominations don’t have a single community connected to them. Just like charismatic, supernatural gifts used to be a rarity within Protestantism due to cessationism, something that has drastically changed over the last century, so is having everything in common. Both miraculous power and community life are biblical practices that many Christians simply don’t want, and both charismatic cessationism and economic cessationism have been defended and strengthened by forms of academic theology which quite frankly use very bad arguments.

Reta Halteman Finger
Reta Halteman Finger

Mennonite scholar Reta Halteman Finger wrote an excellent paper back in 2004 called ”Cultural attitudes in western Christianity toward the community of goods in Acts 2 and 4” (Mennonite quarterly review, vol. 78, no. 2). It’s a baffling read. An obvious mistake from Catholic and Orthodox theologians during pre-Reformation times was to equate the apostolic community of goods in Acts with the community of goods in the monastic movement, even though the latter is only available for celibates.

When Luther and Calvin protested in the 16th century, they rejected the monastic movement and thereby community of goods. Both argued that the only lesson we should learn from Acts 2 and 4 is that we should give a little gift sometimes to a poor person, not that we should have everything in common with them. They criticized Anabaptists for wanting to live apostolically; Luther argued that it is impossible to do what the apostles did for modern believers. The Hutterites proved him wrong, having lived in total community for over 400 years. Continue reading The Anti-Community Conspiracy in Biblical Scholarship

Quakerism as a Charismatic Tradition

by Hye Sung Francis Gehring.

What is the Charismatic Movement?

Many people make sweeping statements about the Charismatic Movement without much comprehension of the diversity among Charismatics, as evidenced by the multitude of books cautioning believers of this broad movement. In 2013, neo-reformed Baptist preacher and author John MacArthur held a conference that attracted thousands of participants that was dedicated to villifying the excesses of Pentecostals and Charismatics. This conference, “Strange Fire”, assumed Charismatics to be at least gravely deceived, if not hell-boundand blasphemers.

Thankfully, this sort of rhetoric is not as commonplace as it once was in the Church and is progressively losing its steam, as about 26% of the global Church is considered charismatic, and as different charismatic practices have been normalized and adopted by non-charismatic traditions (such as “listening prayer”, “prayer teams”, raising arms in worship, and even speaking in tongues, or the more sanitized “prayer languages”.) That said, people still have strange assumptions about what charismatic spirituality is, and many often are shocked when I claim that Quakerism is actually a thoroughly charismatic tradition.

The Charismatic Movement was initially a renewal movement across the Church rather than a distinct denominational tradition. In many ways it was influenced and informed by its predecessor, the Pentecostal Movement, but was distinct from Pentecostalism because its malleability and its desire to not start a new religious group but instead renew the participants’ respective churches in the power of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and virtually every Church tradition was impacted by this movement. Continue reading Quakerism as a Charismatic Tradition

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice