Loved People, Love People

Refugees on the move in Europe, 2015

I do not believe in the redemptive power of social gospel. Salvation does not come through the acts of social and environmental improvements, however important they are. Salvation is ours as we – fragile as we are – trust in Jesus Christ alone, plus nothing and no one else. 

Even under the best of circumstances our righteousness, goodness, works of benevolence are no more than ‘filthy garments’.  We are incapable of redeeming the world. It will not be us ushering in the Kingdom of God but Jesus Christ, in the words of Daniel the prophet, “without a help of human hands” (Dan. 2:34). 

However, once we’ve embraced Christ, the Gospel of Christ becomes a transforming power that changes our society too to a degree we’ve ourselves become changed, making it more bearable and less painful for us to live in the world while we patiently wait “for His great appearing” (Titus 2:13). 

For example, when two hundred years ago William Wilberforce, a British politician, saw a huge cognitive dissonance between the claims of the Gospel and the lucrative attractions of slave trade, the Gospel of Jesus empowered him, and a group of his friends, to put an end to the slave trade of his days. 

I believe in the necessity of social application and implementation of the Gospel, as I believe in the necessity of the work of healing performed by medical practitioners, although hospitals will never deliver complete healing and restoration into the lives of their patients. 

One who has tasted the embrace of Christ will, in the name of Christ, go on embracing others. This is so wonderfully explained by Jesus himself: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35.36.) 

The formula that links the Gospel of Christ to a social action is a straightforward one: transformed disciples of Christ will keep on transforming others, including our society, however imperfect and incomplete the work and outcome may be. 

The truth of the matter is very simple: loved people, love people. And “we love because Jesus first loved us.” (1. John 4:19.) It always works like this. 

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Overcoming Christian Nationalism, Webinar Highlights

This is a selection of highlights featuring a recently held webinar “Overcoming Christian Nationalism.” The panelists presented here are: Camilla Bocaniala, Romania, Co-founder of Polylogos Association, a leadership development organization. * David Austin, US, Worked in international and humanitarian development, including UN and US Government. * Jyl Hall Smith, US, Professor at United Theological Seminary, Ohio * Heather Staff, UK, Political Adviser on Refugee and Migration Policy to UK Parliamentarians. * Zdravko Plantak, US, Professor of Religion and Ethics at the Loma Linda Ethical University. Watch the entire webinar here.

Camilla Bocaniala, Romania, Co-founder of Polylogos Association
David Austin, US, Worked in international and humanitarian development
Jyl Hall Smith, US, Professor at United Theological Seminary, Ohio
Heather Staff, UK, Political Adviser on Refugee and Migration Policy to UK Parliamentarians
Zdravko Plantak, US, Professor of Religion and Ethics at the Loma Linda Ethical University

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We Do not Worship the Monster of Unity

Photo: Fuzine, Croatia, Winter 2001

Church divided is a disgrace to the Lord. But the church that would sacrifice the uniqueness of Christ for the sake of unity scares me more than the fragmented body of Christ. 

There, where unity is worshiped, along the lines of a common and compromising minimum, and at the expense of one’s undivided allegiance to Jesus Christ, as the only Lord, King and Savior, it is only a matter of time and smart deceptions when some other “Christ”, some beastly parasite will take the throne. 

When Jesus prayed for the “unity of all believers” He meant the Church united in and around Jesus Christ alone, with no one else sharing His throne (John 17:20-23). 

He meant the Church of which He Himself is the Head, and the only head. A transplanted head of someone else on the body of the Church, or some other heads added, would turn such a church into a monster. 

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Morning Prayer

Photo: Zagorje, Croatia

Lord, quicken me, wake me up, remove the veils, and let me be fully alert in You. Rescue me from any form of mediocre and drive-through religiosity. Let it be the real me worshiping and honoring the real You. Take away from me all that is false, fake and cosmetic. Mobilize me and grant me a passionate spirit to sustain me. Equip me to follow and serve you in honesty and truth. Help me to think faith, speak faith and act faith. And teach me to trust you despite myself. Psalm 51:10-12; 139:23-24; 2.Cor. 3:16.

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One Day You Will Bow Down

Fuzine, Croatia

One day everyone without exception will have to bow down in worship, one way or another. It is a matter of prudence to consider the choices today, and to decide who is the king you want to pledge your allegiance to. Otherwise, you might find out soon that someone else has already decided for you who you are going to bow down to, whether you like the outcome or not. If you proudly claim neutrality in this matter, your worship might have already been a decided matter.

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Recognizing and Overcoming Christian Nationalism

Leadership Focus International Webinar

Recognizing and Overcoming Christian Nationalism

Tuesday, Feb 2, 8pm CET

Zoom, Facebook, Youtube, 90 min webinar

A combination of displaced white patriotism and predominantly white evangelical Christianity has over the years produced a lethal blend of Christian nationalism in the US. Most recently it was visible in the storming of the US Captiol, when the unruly mob prayed in Jesus’ name, sung Christian hymns, waved flags of allegiance to Jesus and Trump, acted violently, cursed, and threatened the lives of American leaders and the very survival of American democracy. 

An international group of panelists will talk openly and honestly, from the perspective of Jesus-centered faith, about the threats and heresy of Christian nationalism. The panelists are:

Camilla Bocaniala, Romania, Co-founder of Polylogos Association, a leadership development organization. * David Austin, US, Worked in international and humanitarian development, including UN and US Government. * Jyl Hall Smith, US, Professor at United Theological Seminary, Ohio * Heather Staff, UK, Political Adviser on Refugee and Migration Policy to UK Parliamentarians. * Zdravko Plantak, US, Professor of Religion and Ethics at the Loma Linda Ethical University.

The team of panelists will address questions: What is Christian nationalism? How do we recognize Christian nationalism in the US and Europe? What makes Christian nationalism threatening, dangerous and unacceptable? What should we do to overcome and defeat Christian nationalism? How to work towards achieving reconciliation and healing in an environment ridden by the sins of Christian nationalism? How are we, followers of Jesus called to “be in the world, but not of the world”?

This webinar will be moderated by Tihomir Kukolja, Director, Leadership Focus International, and Liviu Bocaniala, Director, Polylogos Association).

Live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leadfocusinternational

Join our conversation via zoom by registering now: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUucuqtqTIpG9FAscgkC_gjORix8d88tA_5

Plan to be with us. Tell friends about this timely and very important webinar.

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Today, this was Something Else

What a festival of decency, sanity, and hope. What a relief.  It feels like hostages have been finally released from a hijacked plane. A precious moment not to be taken for granted.

Exactly four years ago, on another inauguration day, on Friday, January 20, 2017, I wrote on my Facebook profile the following reflection: 

“What shall I say at the end of the day? Let’s put it this way. Some of you might know the feeling: you are watching the inauguration and listening to the president’s speech, and this quiet voice within you keeps on telling you that something is very wrong, despite the fact that the name of the Lord has been invoked multiple times. 

This blend of nationalism, craving after greatness and power through physical strength, exclusivism that borders with superiority, and all of these mixed together with claims that ‘God is with us’, and fervent prayers and supplications to God to make America into ‘the shining city on the hill’ – all of those are something that cannot have the approval of Heaven, regardless of all the prayers uttered today. 

The Lord will not let us turn Him into a mascot of our private or national pride, ambitions and Interests. He will not let us treat Him as if we own Him. Today we witnessed a big act of worship, but I fear that we ‘offered strange, unacceptable fire before the Lord’. Lev. 10:1. 

No, my friends, these are not the words of someone bitter towards America. These are the words of someone who empathizes with a multitude of Americans who know that our God is not a tribal god, and that He has only one ‘nation’ on this earth – his Church redeemed by the blood of Jesus; which is not geographically, ethnically or racially defined.”

I wrote this four years ago. But today, this was something else. 

What a difference between the two men!

What a difference between the two occasions! 

What a difference between the two inaugurations! 

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How to Respond to a Coup

How to Respond to a Coup, Lisa Sharon Harper’s Kitchen Table conversation. Lisa Sharon Harper (Freedom Road) and Tihomir Kukolja (Leadership Focus International) share a honest and engaging conversation about the current insurgence in the US, signs pointing to its coming, consequences, accountability, Christian nationalism, racism, conspiracies. Time :61 min. The show was webcast live on Friday, January 8, 2021. In its entirety it could be watched at this location.  

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Democracy in Distress, a Christian Perspective

The year 2020 was a challenging and overwhelming one. We have every reason to ask, have we Christians been the salt and the light to the world, or a part of the problem?

Over the past several months a group of ten international leaders have addressed this question in the series of Face to Face webinars, organized and presented by Leadership Focus International.

They talked about democracy, truth telling, social justice, integrity, critical thinking, populism, nationalism, politicized faith, conspiracies, elections, pandemics and more.

At the end of this year we would like to share a group of highlights that remain relevant at the time when we are facing a new year full of questions, uncertainties and rapid changes.

This compilation of highlights, extracted from thee webinars (Speaking Truth to Power and Each Other, Leading and Believing Beyond 2020, Following Jesus in a Rapidly Changing World) we have named – Democracy in Distress, a Christian Perspective on 2020 and Beyond

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Showing Now: Following Jesus in a Rapidly Changing World

Now Showing: Watch and recommend the latest Face to Face webinar “Following Jesus in a Rapidly Changing World”. An international group of panelists discussed the questions such as: Are politics and ideology becoming America’s national religion? What does a healthy separation of Church and State look like? How should one’s Christianity influence their public life? Where are all the spiritual shepherds? Modern-day prophets and the unchecked power of mega-churches and their celebrity leaders? What is the measuring stick for leaders, public servants who claim they are Christians? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in a rapidly changing world? Panelists and moderators included John Hart (US), Jyl Hall Smith (US), Camilla Bocaniala (Romania/Norway), Susan Kerr (Luxembourg), Heather Staff (UK), Liviu Bocaniala (Romania), Tihomir Kukolja (US).

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