Nils von Kalm

My take on faith, life and how it all might fit together

Category: Faith (page 1 of 11)

Why seeking justice is central to the gospel

“Seeking justice has been of central importance to millions of Christians throughout history. One of them was Charles Finney, inventor of the altar call.

What many people don’t realise is that when Finney called people up the front to give their lives to Christ, he also made it compulsory for them to commit themselves to the anti-slavery cause. For Finney, being Christian and seeking justice were inseparable.”

The above is taken from my latest article. For many of you, the article will be biblical justice 101, but we all still need reminding at times…

Why seeking justice is central to the Gospel

Back in the 1970s, the founder of the Sojourners community in the US, Jim Wallis, and a friend, decided to conduct an experiment. They wanted to find out what the Bible said about poverty and injustice. So they took a Bible, and a pair of scissors, and proceeded to literally cut out all the verses …

All we have is today

As I move forward in this life, I realise more that I can’t take for granted the personal growth I have already attained. I can’t rest on it. As I’ve said previously, the human heart is deceitful. When I’m going well I can fool myself that I can sit back and be complacent and rely on myself when in fact I need to stay out of the way of my own penchant for self-protection rather than love.

The good I did yesterday certainly counts, and it strengthens me, but it doesn’t guarantee that I will be surrendered again to God today. In the same way, if I was selfish and hurt people yesterday, that doesn’t guarantee that I will stay in that today. That is the great thing about forgiveness and grace. You can get up again anytime, straight away. I don’t have to stay in the shame of my past actions. God wants us to live. You can’t do that when you choose to stay stuck.

All we have is today. There is a saying that talks about living just for today. There is no point ruminating about yesterday’s mistakes, its aches and pains. Yesterday is gone and is never coming back. Similarly, tomorrow is not something we need to be anxious about; it hasn’t arrived yet. We can’t do anything about it. We can live surrendered today and therefore be stronger tomorrow, but it’s today that is what matters.

My past, good or bad, doesn’t define me. We are not what we do, and we are not what our minds often tell us. That’s where Descartes (‘I think, therefore I am’) was wrong. When our minds tell us that we are not worth getting to know, we can reject that for the lie that it is. You are not your mind.

I read an article yesterday about how the latest brain research says that we can physically rewire our brains by retraining them with the truth of who we are. When we get into the habit of retraining our brains, new neural pathways are physically created in our brains so that, the more we practise good habits, the easier they become to do.

What defines us is the fact that every single one of us has inherent dignity. The destructive things I have done in my life don’t mean I’m a bad person. Likewise, I can’t rest on the good things I have done in the past. I can easily undo them much faster than I built them up. That’s why I need to be in touch with myself every day.

Living for today is what matters to me. That can be misunderstood in terms of sucking the pleasure out of life and not caring about the consequences for tomorrow. That is exactly not what this means. That is actually being destructive and living out of our false self. Our true self, the us that God made and wants to release, is the self that lives for today without worrying about the shame of yesterday’s misdeeds or the uncertainty of tomorrow. It is the self that is present today, present to love, to surrender and therefore to joy no matter what life throws at you today.

Learning to live is learning to live on life’s terms, not on the terms I demand. The greatest prayer that I know to help with this is the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

It’s a prayer of living in love, in grace, in forgiveness, in the present and in courage. I’m thankful that God answers such prayers, because I can’t do that on my own. I need outside help. And I only need to do it today.

Does it really matter what we believe?

Why do so many Christians care about alleviating poverty and working for justice in the world? Put simply, what is their theology, and does it really matter?

Theology in itself is the study of God and of God’s relationship to everything else in existence. For some people theology conjures up images of people in ivory towers poring over books and doctrine and other things that don’t seem anywhere near related to the realities of life on the ground. But it is crucial that we have our theology right. It matters what we believe.

Much of the theology we hear in our churches is basically individualistic, Western, and focuses ultimately on saving souls and getting people into heaven. Within this worldview, the alleviation of poverty and working for justice are seen as good things to do, but they are not as important as saving souls, because people’s eternal destiny is what really matters in the end. The other stuff is just temporary.

Continue reading

What is truth in a postmodern culture?

How we grow

Excerpt from Running Up the White Flag

placeit-2Sight Magazine has published an excerpt from my ebook, Running Up the White Flag.

Click here to read the article and here to buy the book on Amazon. I’d love you to leave an honest review on Amazon as well.

The 7th-Century Saint Who Can Help You Discover Your Gifts

This today from Sheridan Voysey. We all need someone who believes in us:

This 7th-Century Saint Can Help You Discover Your Gifts

Saint Hilda was a woman ahead of her time. A profound teacher, patron of the arts and spiritual guide to both peasant and king, the story I love most about her is her interaction with a farmhand named Caedmon. As Hilda helps Caedmon test his unexpected calling, we too can learn how to discover our God-given dreams and gifts.

If 85% of the world is religious, why are secular countries happier?

030815-M-2375M-502If 85% of the world’s population has a religious underpinning to their lives, why are secular countries happier, according to the latest studies?

Dutch philosopher, Evert-Jan Ouweneel says that these countries are generally happier as long as circumstances are going well. Resilience though is lessening.

Ouweneel also says that the world is becoming more religious, not less. 85% of the world’s population has a religious faith. If we want to promote human understanding, cooperation and relationships, we need to understand religion and how it underpins the lives of most people in the world.

Finally, Ouweneel faces the common criticism of faith-based organisations working to alleviate poverty, that they give food from one hand as long it’s with a Bible in the other. There are a lot of myths going around about this, and they are well dealt with in this fascinating interview on ABC Radio National.

Listen to the interview here.

Life is a choice

german-shepherds-watching-catLife is a choice.

We find that this is true especially when we struggle. It is through struggle that character can grow. In fact I would say that it is only in struggle that character can grow. We can choose to rise above our troubles or decide to be overcome by them. Rising above them doesn’t mean ignoring them and pushing them asunder. It means moving forward regardless of the storms of life that are swirling all around us.

One of my great heroes, and probably the most courageous person I have ever known of (apart from Jesus, who chose to go to the cross knowing full well what it would cost) is Martin Luther King. Check out this quote from King from his sermon, Antidotes for fear (Don’t worry about the gender-specific language. It was written in the language of the day. Of course this quote applies equally to women as to men):

“Courage faces fear and thereby masters it. Cowardice represses fear and is thereby mastered by it. Courageous men never lose the zest for living even through their life situation is zestless; cowardly men, overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live. We must constantly build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

Often when trouble strikes, we can feel overwhelmed, even paralysed, by fear. It has certainly happened to me. What I have found is that it is through the growing understanding that we are always ok in God’s sight, and slowly coming to the realisation that we can no longer deny God’s unconditional love for us, that we gain the courage to face whatever is in front of us. This can take years, and in reality, is never fully completed until the day we pass from this earth.

Courage is not the absence of fear though; it is admitting that you might be scared sh*tless but moving forward anyway. That’s where it is a choice. There is nothing wrong with being scared; it is when we allow our fears to overcome us that we never deal with the challenges we are facing.

One of the many examples of Dr King’s courage in the face of adversity is captured in this quote from a sermon he wrote while in jail for civil disobedience:

“Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”

This is what love does, love born of the courage to face fear, look it full in the face and say, like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, “you shall not pass!”.

Life is a choice. God give me the courage to face it on its terms.

Why I’ve had enough of being spiritual

Firefighters rescue stranded motoristsFirst glance at a heading like this might cause some confusion. “But isn’t God spirit? Jesus himself says so, so what’s the problem with any attempt at being spiritual?”

Jesus did indeed say that God is spirit, in his incredible conversation with the woman at the well in John 4. And because Jesus said it, we can regard it as true. But do we find it kind of ironic as well that it is Jesus – God with skin on – who says that God is spirit?

If we want to know what God is like, as Richard Rohr says, we can just look at Jesus. If Jesus is our image of God, then Jesus is what God looks like. And Jesus was a fully embodied human being, just like the rest of us.

Most of our spiritualising of our Christian faith actually harks back to Greek thinking rather than what the biblical story is actually bringing across. And what Jesus meant when he said that God is spirit was not what we think it means. He was speaking into a specific situation and context with the woman at the well.

Most of you will have probably heard the story of the man who drowned in a flood and went to heaven. The story goes like this: Continue reading

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