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news, thoughts on life and theology
If there is one thing I have learned during my years as a missionary, it is that you need to stay flexible. Every time you think you have it all figured out, it seems like God already has something new going on. If you get to ridged, you will soon find yourself missing what God is doing.
Here in Poland the last months have certainly been this kind of times. Many things have been going simultaneously, but when you feel God is backing up what you are doing – well, then you’re too blessed to be stressed.
Humanitarian aid and Street Church
It has been twice the last months that we have had to arrange humanitarian aid on a short notice. The first time it was a friend of ours from Lyngdal that was originally going to Ukraine, but then they got in trouble on the border from Poland to Ukraine and had to turn back. Lublin is only a few hours away from the border and when they realised that they needed to turn back, they decided to call me and ask if I knew someone to whom some gifts from Norway could be useful.
Some time ago I had a discussion on Facebook in which I happened to say something that quickly ended the debate. What I said was that I didn’t think the Word of God was so difficult to understand and this was clearly a very provoking statement - so provoking that the person I was talking to did not want to continue.
I am not trying to claim that there is nothing in the Word of God that don’t understand, but I do think we often make things more complicated than necessary.
The majority of the people that have not yet heard the message of eternal salvation and peace with God through Jesus, live within what we call the 10-40 window. These are the countries from the west coast of Africa to the east coast of Asia and approximately from 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the Equator. Here live millions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others, who have never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus.
East Africa is a turbulent area in desperate need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but it’s also an area where it’s hard for missionaries from the west to enter. Though it’s possible for missionaries to travel to some of the countries (like South Sudan), other countries are totally closed for western missionaries.
There are, however, many fervent followers of Jesus in those areas and many of them are also more than willing to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their own regions and beyond. What they need is someone to send them out and give them the proper training they need. Mission1040.com already has several active evangelists in places like Darfur, Chad, South Sudan, Kenya and Egypt, but we need to see a new generation of pioneers willing to reach the unreached.
One of the countries that we are focusing on now is South Sudan, which borders with Sudan, where out of the 164 people groups living there, 128 are considered unreached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is according to the latest updates from Joshua Projects 2000. This means that 78% of all the people groups in the country is considered unreached.
Today there are some Christians who put a lot of emphasis on the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD as the fulfillment of the Bible's end-time prophecies, or the end of this age - and by that they mean the end of the old covenant. Now, I agree that the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple was a major turning point for Jews, because that meant they could no longer do their offerings, the holy and the holy of holies (as parts of the temple) were destroyed, which was a big shift for Jews.
However, I think you have to twist a whole lot of scriptures if you would like to push all end-time prophecies on the destruction of Jerusalem, claim that the new covenant did not fully start until 70 AD and that the destruction of Jerusalem was "the end of the age" - meaning the end of the Old Testament age/time period....
One of the most amazing truths in the Bible is the fact that God has made us to be NEW CREATIONS. Some might say that salvation is the greatest truth, and that is right because becoming a new creation is what happens in salvation.
Salvation is more than just getting your sins forgiven. It is becoming a new creation, no longer guilty of sin condemnation. In becoming a new creation you were declared righteous. Understanding this gives us a whole new boldness and freedom.
Most people look at themselves as guilty, but forgiven because of the cross. However, you cannot be righteous and guilty at the same time. The Bible says that we HAVE BECOME righteous, which means we are no longer GUILTY.
I recently saw a friend shared a link about a prophecy from a Norwegian lady that was given in 1968, and in this context I would like to share some thoughts regarding end-time prophecies and how we should relate to them.
First of all, end-time prophecies are not something new - there are actually quite a few of them in the Bible itself. Throughout the ages there have also been several different prophecies about coming disasters and the end of time. This should not surprise us if we are Bible-believing Christians for God makes it very clear in His word that He knows the beginning from the end - nothing that happens surprises Him (Isaiah 46:10)
We should not be surprised, either, that God reveals future events, because the Bible tells us that “…the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
But are all end-time prophecies from God?
Does this mean that all prophecies of coming disasters and the end of the world are from God?...
Today as I was having my “thinking time” I was pondering upon the phrase we often meet if we read the Gospels, namely “the Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven”. As I was thinking upon this phrase, I noticed that repentance was a part of Jesus’ proclamation that the Kingdom of God had come near.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Today I know many Christians with a big focus on the Kingdom, but there are also many who concentrate a lot on repentance. It’s interesting to notice that many of those who focus much on repentance don’t talk a whole lot about the Kingdom of God and those who focus on the Kingdom of God usually don't have a big emphasis on repentance - originally both repentance and the Kingdom of God were a part of the same message.
I believe there is a very good reason for Jesus to connect repentance with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God having come near. Today we might not see it so easily because we don't always know what the different words mean.
According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “repentance” comes from “metanoeó”, which means “to change one's mind or purpose”.
So why did Jesus tell people to repent and believe the good news that the Kingdom of God had come near?
When Jesus appeared on the scene, the Jews had already been in big expectation. There had been prophecies about a coming Messiah who would restore the Kingdom, the Jews had been under oppression for a long time and now John had sparked a new hope that this Messiah was right around the corner.
The people were waiting for the Kingdom of God, but the concept they had of it was that Israel would be fully restored as a nation again.
There are such prophecies and in the future they will be fulfilled. It would take a whole lot of allegorical creativity to link all the prophecies about the restoration of Israel to the church. However, when Jesus appeared on the scene, this was not His agenda.
He came with a message that the Kingdom was already here, even though Israel had not been fully restored as a nation and the church had not been instituted. His presence brought the Kingdom of God near to the people who met Him because He carried the Kingdom with Him.
The Kingdom of God was near, but the people needed to repent, or in other words, they needed to change their thinking. If they did not do that, they would miss the kingdom.
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come. He answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with a visible display. People won't be saying, "Look! Here it is!' or "There it is!' because now the kingdom of God is among you."
What is the Kingdom of God?
I believe the Kingdom of God is His reign. It’s wherever God manifests His presence and His will becomes a reality.
When Jesus was walking on this earth, He was carrying the presence of God with Him and making God’s will a reality. Where there was sickness, He brought healing. Where there was oppression, He brought deliverance. He brought good news to the poor and sight to the blind (Luke 4:18-19).
When He sent out his disciples, the message of the Kingdom was what He asked them to preach, namely to confirm the message by applying God’s will to the situations they would face. Where they met sickness, they should bring healing and where they met oppression, they should bring deliverance (Luke 10:1.12 + Matthew 10:1-4).
Many are still looking for the Kingdom
I don’t believe God is finished with Israel, but I do believe that the Kingdom of God is already here and that it is our job to bring Heaven to earth wherever we go. Sometimes I also wonder if some Christians fall into the same thinking that the Jews had when Jesus was walking on this earth. They are so focused on the Kingdom of God, as Israel being fully restored, that they don’t notice that the Kingdom has already come. Maybe Jesus would also say to these: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”.
I have seen some Facebook posts where people write that they find it hard to relate to God who is alternately full of mercy and next minute an executioner who kills his children. That is why I will try to comment a little on that.
WHY ARE YOU AFRAID OF GOD AS AN EXECUTIONER? Don’t you think He has forgiven all your sins... or are you still living in conscious sin? If you have settled everything with God, you don’t have to be afraid of His punishment. If you live in conscious sin and therefore haven’t settled everything with God, it’s better to repent than to convince yourself that it’s going to be all right.
IN GOD THERE IS NO CHANGING SHADOW. God is not alternately full of mercy and next minute an angry executioner. The problem is that many people pull Him down to the human level and that’s why we can’t understand that He can be many things at the same time – the Trinity is, after all, a good example of that.
Try to consider this – God sees every individual on our globe! It means that at the same time as He gladly sees a person who is getting saved, He feels pain seeing the abuse of a little child. At the same time as He rejoices with someone who has been healed, He sees those who suffer from pain and sickness.
I think it is impossible for us to fully understand this because God is a million times bigger than what we can comprehend. He can be both loving and angry at the same time – if He couldn’t do that, He wouldn’t be able to relate well to everyone at the same time, but being God He can feel people’s joy and sorrow simultaneously.
God is both merciful and righteous
The fact that God is love doesn’t mean that He sees through the fingers at criminals who don’t want to repent – that would be terrible. Yes, when people repent, confess their sins and make Jesus their boss, there is forgiveness. Then they will fully experience God’s grace and forgiveness. If, however, they don’t want to repent, it’s not God’s mercy they are going to receive.
John 3:36 says that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
It doesn’t mean that God isn’t merciful, but those people didn’t want His grace – they wanted to manage on their own.
God is merciful, but He doesn’t force His mercy on anyone. His love is available for everyone, but only those who want to receive it will experience it. That is why it’s absolutely wrong to say to people who don’t want to have anything to do with God that He will be merciful and loving towards them.
Today there are a lot of prophecies when it comes to the end of the world and the conspiracy theories are frantically trying to reveal what's happening behind close doors. There might be some truth to some of their claims and at one point we will for sure come to the end of this age. But what is the heart of God in all of this?
GOD IS SLOW TO ANGER, GRACIOUS AND FULL OF COMPASSION
First of all, God never brings judgment because He enjoys punishing. Even in the Old Testament we see that God is a God who is gracious and full of compassion.
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.