søndag 16. desember 2007

Modern prophets?

Last week we saw Al Gore and Rajenda Pachauri receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.
In some ways they remind me of the prophets we find in the Bible – perhaps with the slight difference that the prophets in the Bible didn’t get thousands of dollars for their performances…
Al Gore has been in the news for many years because he has been preaching a very serious message. He’s been preaching judgment over humanity if we don’t change our lifestyle. Isn’t it time for evangelical Christians to start listening to his message?

Prepare the way
You could say that Al Gore has prepared the way for a change in lifestyle.
John the Baptist too talked about preparing the way. Other than that, there are probably not so many more similarities between him and Al Gore.

John prepared the way for the Lord. He was the forerunner of the Messiah, foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament. Isaiah chapter 40 is one of those prophecies. The immediate horizon of that prophecy is the political situation in the Middle East at the time, with the people of Israel in captivity in Babylon, present-day Iraq. Isaiah proclaimed freedom from the captivity in Babylon. Jesus proclaimed freedom from the captivity of sin.

The Babylonian captivity of the earth
One could say that the earth is in a Babylonian captivity of a lifestyle that causes destruction in the form of climate change. I still believe that it is the primary purpose of the church to proclaim the gospel of salvation from sin as we wait for the Lord to return. But Evangelical Christians, like me, have a tendency to think that things like the earth and climate change don’t really matter, since Jesus is coming back and everything will disappear anyway. When Jesus one day returns, I want him to be proud to see that his people have been among the first to take care of the world he created. In the same way that we want to be free from the captivity and slavery of sin, we must free the earth from the captivity of a destructive lifestyle.

What Gore and Pachauri tell us is not all together new.
More than thirty years ago, in 1974, Billy Graham took the initiative to gather 2700 Evangelical Christian leaders from across the world in the city of Lausanne in Switzerland. The focus of the conference was world evangelisation. At the conference they agreed on the Lausanne Covenant, which still serves as a basis for many Evangelical organisations today. Article 6 ends like this: “Those of us who live in affluent circumstances accept our duty to develop a simple life-style in order to contribute more generously to both relief and evangelism.” What is new in the message from Gore and Pachauri is the emphasis on climate change. It is a message we have heard clearer and clearer the last few years. Some of us – including me – have been hesitant to the reality of the warnings. Perhaps it’s time we start to listen and act. Choosing a simpler lifestyle is one way each of us can start acting.

søndag 9. desember 2007

Mission-shaped church

Yesterday I talked with one of the Chinese new believers who are ready for baptism. Every time I do that I am amazed how the Spirit works.  This guy had been influenced by an English-teacher who had shared his faith with him before he left China.  Here in Norway he had met Chinese Christians who had invited him into a warm fellowship.  Through the worship and Bible teaching his faith has been growing until he was ready to make a commitment.  

This is how church is supposed to be, isn't it? A movement of people who live out their faith in love and who share their faith with the people
they meet. 
This is how the church has been growing since the very beginning.  
And the only way the church can continue to be alive, is to be mission-shaped.

torsdag 29. november 2007

The year of the Lord's favour!

Four Sundays before Christmas the new Church year begins. In Norwegian churches on Sunday 2 December the gospel reading takes us to the town of Nazareth, the home town of Jesus. In the Synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus stood up to read from the Scriptures. He opened the scroll on the text in Isaiah 61 and read:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." (Luke 4:18-19)

This is the time to announce that YOU have the favour of the Lord. Did you know that?
Now is the time for you to be set free from all your chains.
Ask him, the King of kings, to do it for you now.

torsdag 22. november 2007

Minority? Absolutely not!


I must admit that after the vote in the Church of Norway General Synod (Kirkemøtet) last week, I felt rather discouraged. I now belong to the minority in my church who believe that what the Bible says about homosexuality is valid for us today as well. I have lost much of my motivation for continuing to be a minister in the Church of Norway, and I have once again reviewed all the arguments for and against staying in this church.

Gradually I have felt my strength returning. God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Amen!
And when I serve in Bergen International Church, I realise that I am absolutely not in a minority. For the liberal part of the Church of Norway is merely a tiny part of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ. It is also the least vibrant part of the worldwide church. It is a part of the church that will wither away. It is only by staying in touch with the part of the body of Christ that is really alive that we will survive as a church. It is particularly in Africa, Asia and South America we find the vibrant part of the church today. We need you, brothers and sisters, to breathe life into this ailing old Norwegian church!

tirsdag 20. november 2007

Freely you received, freely give!

I have been blessed by a free Bible commentary software called E-Sword, so I want to give you the link: http://www.e-sword.net/
E-sword is called "The Sword of the Lord with an electronic edge".  It's a very useful Bible study tool, and it is completely free.  It has got a whole lot of Bible translations,  including the classic languages Greek, Hewbrew and Latin + many modern tongues, in addition to some dictionaries and classic commentaries. 

søndag 18. november 2007

When shepherds disagree

The Church
of Norway has eleven shepherds - bishops - 
who disagree among themselves about the issue of homosexuality.  
Six of them  want to allow persons who practice homosexuality to be priests in the church.  
Last Friday a majority of Norway's state church voted to let each bishop and diocese decide their own practice in this matter.  The shepherds disagree.  What do the sheep do?

We are grateful that we still have some bishops who teach according to the Bible in this matter,
but disappointed that they don't go even further and admit that the church is not one anymore. There is a deep divide going right through our church.  Our unity is only outward.  

When the shepherds point in different directions,
the sheep must listen to the chief shepherd, the one who "enters by the gate". 
"The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  
When he has brought out all his own, 
he goes on ahead of them, 
and his sheep follow him because they know his voice."

Has the time soon come for the sheep to go out?    

torsdag 15. november 2007

The Lord's my Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

King David