Nordic Preacher

Northern Reflections on Preaching, Theology and the Christian Life.

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Am I a Charismatic? Do I Believe in the Holy Spirit?

Am I a Charismatic? Well, to rightly answer that question, one first needs to clarify what is meant by the question. If the question is meant as ‘Do you believe in spiritual gifts and the importance of the Holy Spirit?’ Then the answer would most certainly be an astounding yes! On the other hand, if the question means something along these lines, ‘Do you believe the modern Charismatic movement is a faithful representation of biblical truth?’ Then the answer would have to be a clear no. When I use the term Charismatic, I am here using it as a broad term to describe all Christian movements that are known for their belief that the miraculous and revelatory sign gifts (gift of prophecy, gift of tongues, gift of healing) seen in the New Testament are still operational today. Even though I recognize that there are differences between Charismatics and Pentecostals, specifically the difference in recognizing speaking in tongues as the evidence of being baptized by the Spirit,[1] for my purpose here, I will refer to all those who believe that all the New Testament spiritual gifts continue as fully operational today, as Charismatics.[2] The broad Charismatic movement is too diverse for having a clearly defined systematic theology[3] to focus on, however, the belief in the continuation of prophecy, tongues and divine healing are something shared by most Charismatics.

The main reason why I am not a Charismatic is that the modern Charismatic gifts are not the same as those described in the New Testament, even though they are referred to by the same names. Charismatics often say that they simply believe that all the spiritual gifts of the New Testament are continuing until today. However, when we look closely at how the Bible defines these miraculous gifts, and then compare that to what is practiced by Charismatics, we see that they simply are not the same. Much could be written about the differences and details of these gifts, but since the scope and length of this article is to be a simple overview, the main differences and arguments will be summarized.

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The Biblical Significance of the Beard: A God-given Sign of Gender Distinction and Maturity?

PERSONAL NOTE: Every now and then I get comments from fellow Christians suggesting that it might be unsuitable for Christian men to have beards. For the purpose of publicly explaining my views on the matter, below is the contents of a seminary research paper I have written on the subject, for which I got very encouraging feedback from my professor. Just to be clear, these are simply my own personal views (even though I certainly believe them to be biblically based) and do NOT represent any official view of the church where I have the privilege to serve. Neither do I seek to make others agree with me, rather I simply want to clearly express my own views on this minor topic, for the purpose of helping others understand my biblical reasoning on the matter, even if they end up disagreeing with my conclusions. Anyway, below is the article, which is obviously a little longer than a normal blog post, due to it being a research paper. I hope it will be helpful for others thinking through the issues involved in this subject.

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Introduction

In the well-known fictional work, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, there is somewhat interesting remark made by the senior Demon ‘screwtape’ as he is instructing the younger demon on how to entice humans to sin,

“Thus we have now for many centuries triumphed over nature to the extent of making certain secondary characteristics of the male (such as the beard) disagreeable to nearly all the females­–and there is more in that than you might suppose.”[1]

Was C. S. Lewis actually on to something with this strange comment by this fictional demon? Is there actually a God given purpose for the ‘secondary characteristics of the male’, the beard in particular? Does the suppression of this natural symbol of manliness actually signify something more than one might first suppose? Even more specifically, is it completely foolish to even suggest that there might be good biblical reasons for men to have beards? In fact, could the beard even be considered a sign of gender distinction and maturity?

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Ohjeita Raamatun lukemiseen – J. C. Ryle

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This is a Finnish translation of J. C. Ryle’s advice regarding Bible reading. Translated by Miska Wilhelmsson.

1. Aloita Raamatun lukeminen heti tänään. Ainut tapa tehdä jotain, on että vain yksinkertaisesti tekee sen, ja ainut tapa lukea Raamattua, on että todella lukee Raamattua. Pelkästään tarkoittaminen, toivominen, harkitseminen, aikominen, tai asian ajattelu ei tule auttamaan sinua pätkääkään. Sinun täytyy yksinkertaisesti vain luettava. Tässä asiassa ei ole mitään kuninkaallista tietä, ei yhtään enempään kuin rukouksenkaan kanssa. Jos et vain itse pysty lukemaan, täytyy sinun suostutella joku toinen lukemaan sinulle ääneen. Mutta tavalla tai toisella, oli se sitten silmien tai korvien kautta, Raamatun sanan on tultava sinun mieleesi.

2. Lue Raamattua totisella tahdolla ymmärtää sitä. Älä ajattele hetkeäkään, että tarkoitus on vain edetä tietty määrä sivuja, ja että sillä ei ole mitään väliä ymmärrätkö mitään tai et. Jotkut tietämättömät ihmiset näyttävät ajattelevan, että kaikki on tullut suoritettua, kunhan he vain päivittäin saavat tietyn määrän lukuja luettua, vaikka heillä ei olisikaan mitään ymmärrystä siitä mitä ovat juuri lukeneet, kunhan he vain ovat edenneet tietyn määrän sivuja eteenpäin. Tämä on Raamatun lukemisen muuttamista pinnalliseksi muodollisuudeksi. Se on melkein yhtä vakavaa kuin Paavillinen tapa ostaa aneita toistamalla muutama Ave Maria ja isä meidän rukous. Se muistuttaa minua yhtä parkaa hottentottia joka söi hollantilaisen virsi kirjan, koska oli nähnyt kuinka paljon se lohdutti naapuriensa sydämiä. Päätä siis mielessäsi, yleisenä periaatteena, että Raamattu jota ei ole ymmärretty, ei tee mitään hyvää. Sano itsellesi usein, kun luet “Mistä tässä on oikein kysymys?” Kaiva tekstin merkitystä kuin kultaa kaivava mies. Tee kovaa työtä, ja älä anna periksi kiireen takia.

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Sermon: The Person of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15)

Last Monday (27th March 2017), I had the privilege of teaching on the topic of The Holy Spirit for Women Walking Wisely, a women’s ministry group at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. If you are interested in listening to the sermon, you can now find the audio recording on the church website.

Sermon: The Person of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15)

Link: www.gracechurch.org/sermons/13052

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The First Finnish Book: A Reading Primer and Catechism

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The first printed book published in the Finnish language is ‘Abckiria’ (ABC-Book), a basic reading primer together with a small Christian catechism, put together by the Finnish reformer Mikael Agrciola.[1] The primer was printed in the royal publishing house of Stockholm, operated by Amund Laurentsson who had been trained by a German book-printer. The first year of printing was likely 1543. Amund Laurentsson would prove to be a close associate to Agricola for many years, since all his nine books would be published by Amund, whom Agricola later referred to as a good friend.[2]

The catechism found in the primer is not a translation of a previously existing catechism, rather it is the result of Agricola combining many different existing works, similarly as he did in many of his other published works.[3] The main sources that Agricola used for this are Luther’s small catechism, Melanchthon’s catechism, and Andreas Osiander’s catechism.[4] The primer begins with a short poem, encouraging both the young and old to learn God’s commandments and to master the Finnish language.

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Sermon: The Glory of Trembling (Isaiah 66:1-5)

faithbuilders-album-artA few weeks ago (8th January 2017), I had the privilege of preaching again in FaithBuilders at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. If you are interested in listening to the sermon, you can now find the audio recording on the Grace Community Church website.

Sermon: The Glory of Trembling (Isaiah 66:1-5)

Link: www.gracechurch.org/sermons/12816

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The Importance and Simplicity of Correct Bible Interpretation

How can we know what God is like and what He expects of us? The truth is, if we were left to our own wisdom and reasoning capabilities, we would never arrive at true knowledge about God and how we are to worship Him. It is true that when we look at the creation around us, we know and understand (and so does the non-believer, even though he suppresses that truth) that God exists and that He is powerful (Romans 1), but we would still remain in darkness about the specific character, requirements and promises of God. Praise be to God that He has not left us in darkness, but has instead revealed Himself to us by giving us His Word, the Bible.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

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Sermon: The Blessed Life (Psalm 1)

faithbuilders-album-artLast Sunday (12th June 2016), I had the privilege of preaching in FaithBuilders at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. If you are interested in listening to the sermon, you can now find the audio recording on the Grace Community Church website.

Sermon: The Blessed Life (Psalm 1)
Link: https://www.gracechurch.org/sermons/12178

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Forcing the Finnish Pagans?

As a Protestant Christian from Finland, I trace my spiritual heritage back to the Finnish reformation, when the country turned from Roman Catholicism to Protestant Lutheranism. Although not a Lutheran myself, I am still greatly thankful for how God used this period to bless my home country with the Word of God in the Finnish language (see my blog post on the Finnish Reformation), while at the same time recognizing that a large part of the reformation was also politically motivated. The questions that then remain are, how did Finland become introduced to Christianity in the first place? And, is that part of history, when the Roman Catholic Church ruled in Finland, to be fully rejected as a time of darkness, or is there any aspect that a Bible-believing Christian should still be thankful for and appreciate?

Christianity Arrives to Scandinavia

ansgariusThe first one to preach Christianity in Scandinavia was a German monk named Ansgar. He first arrived to Denmark in 826 and started preaching there. A few years later in 830 he travelled to Sweden for the purpose of evangelizing the people there also. Certain individuals did convert by his ministry both in Denmark and Sweden, but the monks were still persecuted by many of the native people in those lands. Ansgar died in 865, which resulted in the decline of the German missions in Scandinavia.

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Why the Church Needs Expository Preaching

The benefits of expository preaching are numerous, this is because it is the Word of God, the Bible, that the Holy Spirit uses to build up and sanctify believers (John 17:17). Some of those benefits can be summarized under the three following headings, explaining what expository preaching exemplifiesteaches, and produces.

1. What Expository Preaching Exemplifies

It models for the church congregation the great importance of faithful and diligent Bible study, it also shows them how they are to approach and interpret the Bible correctly. It exemplifies to them a righteous reverence and submission to the Word of God. It exemplifies that our thoughts and understanding about God cannot be based on our own ideas or even the pastor’s own ideas, but rather they need to be grounded in Scripture. It exemplifies a reliance on the ultimate author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, who gives understanding to believers when they diligently and prayerfully study the Word of God.

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