Saturday, March 23, 2019

Love

Love is easy to say, but harder to do.

Love means doing the One Another Stuff.

Honour one another above yourselves (Rom 12:10).

Live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16).

Stop passing judgement on one another (Rom 14:13).

Build up and edify each other (Rom 14:19).

Have concern for each other (1 Cor 12:25).

Serve one another in love (Gals 5:13).

Carry each other's burdens (Gal 6:2).

Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph 4:32).

Forgive one another (Eph 4:32).

Build each other up (1 Thes 5:11).

Live in peace with each other (1 Thes 5:13).

Be kind to each other (1 Thes 5:15).

Live in harmony with one another (1 Pet 3:8).

Offer hospitality to one another (1 Pet 4:9).

Serve each other (1 Pet 4:10).

Show humility toward one another 1 Pet 5:5).
These are the good things that overcome evil.
Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
More at One Another Stuff.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Destiny of Nations

Charles Hugh Smith has some interesting comments about the structure and destiny of nations.

None of the current political systems are decentralized enough and adaptable enough to survive the non-linear era we're entering.
The problem, as we all know, is the parasitic elites rule the centralized hierarchies of wealth and political power, and they will cling to power even as the nation they rule crumbles around them. The hubris, complacency and greed of the ruling parasitic elites is near-infinite; the idea that the political and financial structures that they dominate will not survive simply doesn't exist in the parasitic elites...
The only sustainable solution going forward is radical decentralization of capital, political power and control of resources...
Adaptability and flexibility will be the core survival traits going forward. The only structures adaptable and flexible enough to respond quickly and effectively enough to survive are decentralized networks— non-hierarchical, distributed rather than centralized, self-organizing rather than top-down.
The church should be the ultimate decentralized network, which is non-hierarchical, and self-organizing rather than top-down.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Words

I noticed last night that one of the television channels seem to have stopped calling the events in Christchurch a “mosque attack” and begun talking about a “terrorist attack”. The subtle change of words is concerning, because it changes the nature of the events.

When people say about the victims of the mosque attack, “They are Us”, it can be an expression of sympathy, but one implication is that this was an attack on us all. That is misleading. This was actually an attack on them. There was no attack on us. The only people killed and injured were Moslems.

This was not an attack on our lifestyle. It was an attack on their lifestyle. The people killed and injured were going to worship in a mosque on Friday afternoon. That is not part of the normal lifestyle here. Most people in New Zealand never go to worship at all, so they are not affected by such a threat. We are shocked, but the lifestyle of Moslems is seriously affected because they do not know if it will happen again.

I understand why the Prime Minister said of the murderer, “He is not us,” but that is also misleading. He is not a monster. He is a man with human DNA, and blood, muscles and bones, just like all of us. The difference is that he made some bad choices, perhaps because he was hurt, and then filled his heart and mind with the wrong stuff, allowing the powers of evil to get hold of him. That is not that uncommon. Many of us have done that at times. The difference in case is that he went further down the path of deception and dug deeper into evil.

Although he was Australian, he has lived in New Zealand for some time. There is plenty of hatred and anger in Christchurch, and a significant number of white supremacists live in the city. So in that sense, he is us.

Over the last few months, perhaps year, the level of violence seems to have ramped up in the city. Some really nasty incidents have occurred. Something to ponder is why has this been able to happen in a city called Christ Church, which means “gathering of people called by the Messiah”. Why have spirits of violence been able to gain a foothold in the city carrying the name Jesus? That is a challenge for people who follow him.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Christchurch

God's plans for Christchurch have not changed;
His purposes will be accomplished.
He will establish his Kingdom in the city;
His plans for Christchurch will be fulfiled.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Coping with Radical Social Change

Charles Hugh Smith has an article about the dynamics of decay and collapse of organisations and systems The article is complicated, but his comments are relevant to the leadership of the modern church who seems to be struggling to cope with the rapid change that is sweeping the world.

Human organizational structures have traits that manifest either resiliency or brittleness. Resilient ones adapt; brittle ones collapse. Such manifestation is scale-invariant, meaning it holds equally true for small groups, global corporations and/or states. Dynamics that favor maintaining the status quo are intrinsic to all organizations.

Simply put, it’s extremely difficult for organizations to change their structure once it’s been institutionalized. As a result, organizations are suited for gradual, modest changes that leave their processes and outputs intact. When survival depends on radically reorganizing these structures, organizations lack the institutional mechanisms, funding, history and skills required to do so. In other words, rapid adaptation that puts insiders at risk is not a natural function of organizations...

Few organizations are able to adapt to new conditions if the adaptation requires a fundamental reordering of the power structure. Very few individuals or groups voluntarily relinquish power and income, even for the good of the organization. People cling very tenaciously to the self-serving belief that whatever changes need to be made can be done while leaving their positions and power intact.

In other words, insiders prefer to conserve the status quo rather than increase the resilience of the organization, because the costs and redistribution of power required to increase resilience come at the expense of insiders… insiders are incapable of recognizing and addressing problems if taking curative action disrupts the power structure.

This inability to accept the necessity of radical change is intellectual and cultural. Rather than being flexible, versatile and seeking to promote variability within the organization to strengthen adaptive capabilities, insiders do more of what’s failing/failed. Culturally, the required changes may be outside the institution’s behavioral norms, or so far off their radar they don’t even register as possibilities, much less necessities; anyone daring to propose such changes is sacked or exiled as threats to the status quo. Such institutional culling of those willing to pursue needed changes dooms the organization, as it lacks both the structures and leadership needed to institutionalize flexibility, versatility and variability.

The ingrained bias within organizations is to conserve whatever worked well in the past, including the existing power structure. As non-linear change overwhelms the organization, those in power will sacrifice the organization itself, perhaps unwittingly, rather than see their power diminished. From the perspective of those in power, their control is the glue holding the institution together. The possibility that the power structure is itself the cause of the institution’s failure simply doesn’t compute.
The default inclination of any organization that’s optimized to protect the security of insiders is to repress any dissent as dangerous, and punish or exile the dissenters.
This a modern form of killing the prophets.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Unity (7) Pakeha Responsibility

Norm McLeod says that he does not want Pakeha to feel guilty. That is good, because Maori should not be accusing Pakeha. However, responsibility always belongs to the powerful, so Pakeha Christians need to repent of their treatment of Maori. The unjust taking of their land created real hurts in the hearts of the Maori living at the time. These hurts have been passed down from generation to generation. So many generations have now passed by that some of those who carry the hurt often do not know where it came from, but the pain remains. This is the cause of much personal and social dysfunction.

Some troubled Maori will need a Pakeha person to personally ask them for forgiveness before they can be set free. The treaty settlement process is a good first step, but Pakeha Christians will need to seek forgiveness from each new generation of Maori, until they are set free and healed of the hurt, so that is no longer passed down to their children.

The beneficiaries of oppression and injustice have difficulty understanding its impact on its victims. They think they should get over it, but the scars and hurts don’t just disappear when the injustice is removed. If the injustice is minimised and excused by its beneficiaries, anger is created, which deepens the scars.

In the 1980s, I was asked to attend a small conference (hui) organised by Muri Thompson at Moerewa to discuss the links between the gospel and the Treaty of Waitangi. This was the covenant between the British governor and the Maori chiefs gathered at Waitangi that opened the way for the colonisation of New Zealand. Despite the promises made in the treaty, the Maori were quickly lost their land in a series of illegal political and military manoeuvres.

On the first morning of the conference, a young Maori Christian leader, Gray Theodore, spent two hours recounting the history of Maori dealings with European colonists. For many of the Maori people listening, mostly women and young people, all Christians, this was the first time they had heard a detailed account of the injustices that previous generations had experienced. As they listened, they all began to weep. This experience was an eye-opener for me (When I talk about the experience I still feel like weeping).

The reason that these people wept was that their hearts still carried the pain of the injustices their forefathers had experienced. They did not know what had happened, but they still carried the emotional scars from the injustices experienced by previous generations. As they listened, I saw the lights coming on for them. They got an understanding of the pain that they knew they still carried (despite their faith in Jesus).

When the injustices occurred, the people who lost their land felt terrible pain. Their children picked up that pain. Because their pain was real they passed the hurt on to their children. The history of the injustice was gradually lost, but the spiritual and emotional pain was passed on from generation to generation. Hearing their history explained the pain, but it did not heal it. That would require repentance and restitution by the descendants of European colonists who benefited from the injustices. I hope that my talk contributed a little to making that happen.

When injustice and oppression occur, emotional and spiritual pain is passed on to subsequent generations. As time passes, the reason for the emotional pain is forgotten, but the scars remain with the victims' descendants, crippling their lives. Those hurts need to be healed before the pattern is broken so they can be free.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Unity (6) Challenge

Settler Model

The apostles emerging in New Zealand have not understood the full implications of Pentecost. Much of what they assume to be new is old. Instead, of following Jesus example, they have continued to implement the Old Testament Priest/Temple Model that the English settlers bought to New Zealand. They build big temples and gather people there once a week to sit under a priest and to hear from God. During the rest of the week, followers of Jesus are scattered in the world.

The only twist is that they are not allowed to focus on making money, but are expected to transform the places where they work, although this is almost impossible for one person standing alone in the darkness. The result is that there is very limited community, and no territory is taken for Jesus.

Going to a building where the Holy Spirit dwells is an Old Testament approach. The Israelites had to operate that way, because the Holy Spirit had not been poured out on them. In the New Testament model, the Holy Spirit is with every follower of Jesus, so we carry him out into the darkness where the people live and become a community there with them, so the light can shine in their darkness.

Apostles in NZ need to break free of the OT Temple model bought here by the colonising English church. Lyn Packer said at the Behold Conference.

Colonisation by religion is over.
I am not sure that everyone understood the full significance of that call.


Challenge
The problem is that modern apostles are mostly raised up in Pakeha-style churches, so they have been trained to build a temple and bringing people into it, but they don’t understand the Maori concept community and attachment to land. Pakeha apostles know Jesus and carry the Holy Spirit, so they build a house for him and call the people to come there to meet with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They don’t understand the piece of the puzzle that the Maori had: the spirituality of the land and the importance of community.

God’s strategy is to send apostles to where broken and crushed people are living and becoming a community with them in the place where they live. His kingdom will expand the territory of as the spiritual powers of evil are driven off the land over which these people have authority, as renters or owners.

The people of New Zealand need better apostles; not big apostles with a travelling ministry who expect the people to come to their meetings on Sunday, but small apostles doing what the seventy did for Jesus, going to live amongst the poor and the oppressed, the crushed and broken. They will share the good news, heal the sick, and cast out demons. They will love and bless them and teach them how to live. These apostles will transform society from the bottom-up by building community and teaching people to love one another in the street where they live. They will drive evil spirits out of the territory where the people of Jesus have authority.

Maori and Pakeha both need apostles who have been sent by the Holy Spirit to live amongst them where they live. Jesus did not require the people of the world to climb laboriously up to where lives. He came down to into the world and lived among the poor, the broken-hearted and the oppressed.

He camped among us (John 1:14).
Jesus explained to his disciples that once the Holy Spirit had come, they should not stay in Jerusalem, but go into the world to live among the poor and oppressed, carrying the Holy Spirit with them to set these people free.

When Paul went to Corinth, he did not start a meeting and expect the lost to come and find him. He went and lived amongst them with some friends and built them into a community (1 Cor 2:1)

We have too many Jesus and Holy Spirit Apostles. We need more Community and Territory Apostles serving Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. They will go and live with the poor and oppressed and become a community with them. They will expand the territory of Jesus by pushing the spiritual powers of evil out of the land where his followers have authority.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Unity (5) Social Transformation

Justice for Maori

When I first wrote about the Treaty of Waitangi, I assumed that the government treaty settlements would go a long way to restoring the victims of injustice. It is now evident that they are not sufficient. The settlement process undertaken by successive governments is good, because the Crown needed to apologise and make restitution for its failure to honour and respect the Treaty of Waitangi. However, most of the benefits have flowed to those who are hooked into the Iwi political systems. Many Maori have not benefited from the treaty settlements. Something more will be needed to transform society and restore them to blessing.

Government-funded social services also help, but they are not sufficient for the radical social transformation that we need. A full gospel that includes salvation from sin, reconciliation, and restoration of community by the power of the Holy Spirit will be needed. Those who are still suffering and crying out for from justice will only be restored to blessing when they are drawn back into communities bound together by the love of Jesus, and love for each other.

Apostles are the Solution
I agreed with Norm McLeod at the conference when he said,

I don’t want to see revival that leaves society the same, with people in poverty and cramped up by injustice.
A revival that does not transform society is like a cloud without rain.
The ultimate solution to the Maori cry for justice is New Testament-style apostles restoring community in the places where they live. We need apostles who can put together what Maori had, but Pakeha didn’t have, with what Pakeha had, but Maori didn’t. We need apostles who can put together knowledge of Jesus and the Holy Spirit with an understanding of Community and Territory.

Daniel Zelli said at the Behold Conference that apostles don’t build the church, they go into the darkness to expand the Kingdom of God.

When apostles do as Jesus did, and go to a street or village and heal the sick, preach the gospel, disciple his followers, cast out demons, cleanse the land and establish strong communities, society will be transformed street by street.

The world is waiting for apostles who can put together the wisdom of Maori and Pakeha. These apostles will know Jesus and walk in the Spirit, but they will also understand how to establish community by making disciples, and claim land for Jesus by driving the spiritual powers of evil out of territory controlled by followers of Jesus.

These apostles will take a small team that includes a prophet and evangelist to live among the poor and oppressed and love, serve and bless them. They will transform the community where they live by teaching people to love one another. In these Kingdom Communities, followers of Jesus who love one another will transform society, street by street, and village by village.

Wealth will flow from the rich and the powerful to the poor and oppressed. People who hold unrighteous wealth will be led by the Spirit to share with those who have suffered injustice or fallen into poverty. They will teach them how to use their wealth to support their families and lead productive lives as in Acts 2:45 and Acts 4:33-35.

In the Old Testament age, people had to go to the tabernacle/temple, because that was the only place that the Holy Spirit dwelt. Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer, so he wants apostles to carry him to the place where the poor and oppressed live, so the Spirit can dwell there with them. The Holy Spirit wants to live amongst the broken and hurting. He cannot live in their hearts, because they have not been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, so he needs the body of Jesus providing a place for him to live amongst them. That way they do not have to drive to a meeting at the weekend to meet with him.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Unity (4) Revival and Justice

Maori Revival
If we look at the nineteenth century, revival amongst Maori, it did not apply the temple model that the English settlers had brought from home. Maori stumbled upon the apostolic model that Jesus used. A person who had learnt about Jesus would go to a related hapu or whanau and tell them about him. They would live there and disciple those who chose to follow Jesus. This took place in traditional communities. The tribal communities became Jesus communities, as people submitted to him.

When a community was strong in their faith, the leaders would be sent out to another whanau or hapu to share about Jesus. Often a hapu would ask for some Christians to come and live among them. Sending out faithful people multiplied the faith communities and expanded the territory that belongs to Jesus.

The land of the whanau or hapu that came to faith became territory for Jesus. This strategy expanded the Kingdom of God in NZ. Unfortunately, this amazing revival was cut short by Pakeha religious leaders who did not understand what was happening. They sucked the best Maori leaders into the church system as lay-preachers and church became a Sunday thing. The apostles and prophets sustaining the move of God were shut down.

I always presumed that it was the stealing of the land that choked the Christian revival amongst Maori, but I now realise that even more harm was done by Pakeha Church leaders imposing an Old Testament temple model on the emerging Maori church. It is sad that the enemy was able to the land-hungry Pakeha Christians and Pakeha religious leaders to kill off the advance of the Kingdom of God.

Rock of Kotahitanga
I agree with Norm McLeod that spiritual blessing will not come in New Zealand, particularly in the North Island, until Maori and Pakeha are standing in unity on the rock of Jesus. At the moment, two groups are crying out to God, but they do not realise that the answer to their prayer is held by the people on the other side.

  • Maori want someone to provide justice. The solution is the gospel of Jesus and the power of the Spirit that Pakeha bought to them. But this will only happen when prophets and apostles take up their correct roles. When the gospel is preached in the power of the Spirit, people who choose to follow Jesus will give away their unrighteous wealth to those who have suffered injustice and those who are in need. This flow of wealth will lift up Maori and restore them to blessing.

  • Pakeha Christians are crying out for revival, but they will not get it until they get the understanding of the importance of community and land. Only when apostles understand the importance of land and community (Maori have expertise in both) and adopt Jesus strategy of going out into villages and streets to live where the Holy Spirit is moving and establish Kingdom communities for him, will they receive the revival that they are crying out for.

Norm McLeod said at the Behold conference,
Jesus is not listening to the prayer of the church for revival. His ear is turned to the Tangata Whenua, because they are crying out for justice. When the treaty was violated, it is God’s law that was broken.
He also said
If you have not reached your street, how can you pray for a nation?
I would say that reaching a nation begins with the transformation of a street.

Social transformation does not come from the top, but occurs at the local level, street by street, and village by village. This is why Jesus strategy focussed on streets and villages. Most apostles focus on their city, when they should be attempting to establish a Kingdom Community in a street where they have moved to live.

Rather than targeting cities and nations, apostles should be doing what Jesus commanded his apostles to do, and move out to live in a street or village where the Holy Spirit is working. As they build community in that place, society will be restored, land will be cleansed, and God’s kingdom will come.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Unity (3) Community

Stolen Community
British settlers left behind whatever community they had when they came to New Zealand. They did not understand that they could learn about community from Maori. Pakeha were restless people without community, so they presumed that Maori were the same.

In the 1950s and 60s, Pakeha persuaded Maori to leave their remaining land and communities and move to the cities to work in the freezing works and car assembly factories, so they could share in Pakeha wealth. They would find a good home in state houses in Porirua and Otara, and they would be able to afford a Holden or Ford V8 in which to drive back to the marae if they needed to. Of course, that soon became too hard for people who worked long shifts. Unfortunately, these jobs disappeared twenty years later, and Maori dropped into urban poverty, without the support of their traditional communities.

I once thought that that the worst thing that the Pakeha did to Maori was stealing their land, but in some ways destroying their communities was an even greater evil.

Norm McLeod said,

When the settlers stole the land, they took the soul of the people.
I say,
When they took their community, they destroyed the heart of the people.

Religious Colonisation
Because they had no understanding of community, the Pakeha settlers brought an Old Testament priest/temple concept of church here. Build a mini-temple, go there once a week on the Sabbath (three times a year if you are slack) to meet with the priest and during the rest of the week, you can get on with making money.

Going to a building where the Holy Spirit dwells is an Old Testament model. The Israelites had to operate that way, because the Holy Spirit had not been poured out on all flesh. Jesus changed that on the day of Pentecost by pouring out his Holy Spirit on his people, outside of the temple where everyone could see. Under the New Testament model, the Holy Spirit is with the people of Jesus, so they carry him out to where people live in darkness and dwell with them, allowing his light to shine in the darkness.

When Jesus sent out the twelve and seventy apostles, they went into a village or a street and stayed in the home of the person of peace. They discipled the people in the street or village who chose to follow Jesus when they saw the sick healed and the demons cast out. They became a community bound together by their love for Jesus and each other that brought social transformation to that village or street.

The land over which they had authority became territory that belongs to Jesus. This expanded the Kingdom of God on earth, by giving authority of this territory to Jesus.

Once a Kingdom Community was in place, they then went out to another street or village and repeated the process. In this way, communities were strengthened, society was transformed, and the territory where Jesus had authority expanded.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Unity (2) Land

Lost Land

The settlers who came to New Zealand did not understand the importance of land for Jesus’ Kingdom. The Scottish settlers had lost their land to English gentry. The English had lost their land when William the Conqueror gave it to the nobles who fought with him in 1066. The English had become tenant farmers, working in return for a share of the crop. Then with enclosure, many had lost even that right and were forced to become itinerant farmer workers. With the industrial revolution, many drifted to the new cities to live and work. They had lost their connection to both their land and their traditional communities.

When British settlers came to New Zealand, they left behind whatever community remained. They saw land as just a tool to earn a living. They were quite happy to buy and sell land for profit. Having moved across the world, they were quick to move from place to improve their economic position. They had no understanding of the importance of community or the spiritual importance of land.

Territory
Territory is critical to the Kingdom of God. Kings needs territory. A king without territory is not a real king. If another ruler gains control of his territory, he is just a pretender.

The spiritual powers of evil understand the importance of territory. The powerful ones have become “principalities and powers” controlling nations and kingdoms by dominating the kings and political leaders with authority over them. Lesser spirits control smaller areas where they have been given authority.

In the last couple of centuries, the church has lost interest in territory. Jesus now has many followers in the world, but very little territory where he has authority. There are very few places where he is king. Instead, his followers are scattered throughout territory that is controlled by the enemy. Because they live and work in enemy territory, they are often battered, beaten and robbed.

If there are no areas on earth that are evil-spirit free, then Jesus does not have a kingdom on earth. He just has people who have given allegiance to him living as outlaws in enemy territory. This should disturb us. Jesus needs followers who understand the importance of territory. To establish the Kingdom of God on earth, God needs a church that can take spiritual control of territory for him and push the spiritual powers of evil out of it.

Land and community are critical for the coming of the kingdom of God. I explain this more at Territory

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Unity (1) Maori and Pakeha

On Waitangi Day in 1983, I preached a sermon in a small church at Waikaka Valley near Gore, Southland describing the parallels between Saul’s treatment of the Gibeonites and the breach of the Treaty of Waitangi explains. An article based on the sermon published in the Challenge newspaper later that year created considerable interest. Muri Thompson circulated it widely to Maori groups and a few government officials. After that, I thought that I had done by bit, so I have not given the topic much thought since then.

A couple of weekends ago, I attended a conference called Behold a New Era in Christchurch. One of the speakers was Norm McLeod. His message about the relationship between Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand really set me thinking about this topic again. He shared a vision of Maori and Pakeha standing together on the rock, which was really compelling. This unity in Jesus is essential for a move of God in New Zealand.

He shared a second vision in which the Pakeha church on one side crying to God for revival and the Maori elders on the other side crying out for someone to bring them justice. As I was pondering this vision during the night and thinking about some of the teaching about the Kingdom of God from the conference, the thoughts for the following posts came to me. They are not the complete picture, but I believe they are an important part of the puzzle.

God’s Purpose

God brought the British and Maori together for a purpose. They each needed something that the other had.

  • The British had the gospel and the scriptures: Jesus and the Holy Spirit. However, they needed to learn about caring for the land and building community.

  • The Maori understood the spirituality of land and community, but they needed the gospel of Jesus and the Spirit.

Maori needed the gospel of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They understood the spirituality of the land, and they lived in strong communities, but sin and the spiritual powers of evil created divisions that often manifested in war. The violence allowed evil spirits to attach themselves to the land. They needed the peace and unity that only Jesus could bring.

When the British settlers came to NZ, they needed the Maori understandings of land and community, but pride prevented them from seeing what Maori had to offer them. All they saw was the warrior spirit, disturbed by oppression and fired up by muskets. Pakeha politicians manipulated that warrior spirit to get Maori fighting in European wars that did not concern them, but trampled on their understanding of law and community, which Pakeha settlers really needed.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Religious Leaders (3) Stephen and Paul

Stephen

Stephen criticised the Jewish leaders for refusing to obey God after he had rescued them. He accused his listeners of the same sin (Acts 7).

Paul

Before his conversion, the main thing that Paul relied on for being right with God was his birth as an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin. His circumcision on the eighth day confirmed that he belonged to the people of God.

I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness in the law, becoming blameless (Phil 3:4-6).
His confidence came from his birth as a Hebrew.

In regard to the law, he was a Pharisee with a zeal for keeping the law, albeit in a selective way. He does not claim to be perfectly righteous. Rather, he claims to be becoming blameless. He was working on keeping the law, but had not fully achieved this goal. However, not being perfectly blameless, did not keep him from the blessings promised by the covenant with Moses.

The full series is at Judaism and the Gospel.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Religious Leaders (2) Jesus' Woes

Jesus did not condemn the Pharisees for trying to earn righteousness by keeping the law. He was concerned that they were leading the children of Israel astray by their teaching, and particularly by the way that they lived.

Jesus criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the law for the following failures. (The codes refer to the number of the woe in either Matthew or Luke).

  • Ordinary sins that are common to all people.

    • Pride – wanting the best seats and places of privilege (M0, L2)

    • Rejecting God’s prophets (L5, M7)

    • Hypocrisy – good on the outside but rotten inside (L4, M5 ,M6).

    • Greed (L1, M5).

  • Religious sins

    • Deceiving people with incorrect interpretations of the law (M2).

    • Nitpicking rules (L3, L5).

  • Failure to apply the Torah, and especially the Instructions for Economic Life.

    • Placing a burden on the poor by making them pay the cost of Herod’s temple. Wealth was flowing from the people to the temple and the people employed there. (M0, L5).

    • Preventing people from entering the Kingdom. The Instructions for Economic Life specified in the Torah could be applied in any community, despite the Romans. It was not necessary to wait for the coming of the Messiah. The teachers of the law had ignored the Instructions for Economic Life, so they poor suffered. The people of Israel could have been obeying God and experiencing the life of the Kingdom, but the teachers of the law had shut them out of that option.

    • Failure to provide justice and mercy. This is the heart of the Instructions for Economic Life. The application of the justice of the Torah would have eliminated much of the poverty and suffering in Israel. Giving away unrighteous wealth would have bought great blessing. Applying the land laws would have been tough for the Sadducees would have provided economic sustenance for many people (L1, L2). More in God's Economy.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Religious Leaders (1)

Most Christians assume that the religious leaders that Jesus encountered were practising a works-based religion. They were trying to satisfy God’s righteous standards by obeying the law. This view is misleading. The law is not a tool for proving righteousness. God had different purposes for giving the law.

Jesus actually criticised the religious leaders for a number of different reasons. We need to understand them, because we are in danger of falling into the same mistakes.

A key problem that Jesus challenged was that the religious leaders had made the law into a burden. God had given the law to bless his people His main purpose was to provide them with spiritual protection and to allow sinful people to live together in relative peace.

God gave the sabbath to allow people to get the rest they needed. He rested, because rest is good. The teachers of the law had turned the sabbath into a burden, by giving them lots of rules to obey. This was unnecessary. All of us know how to rest. We know when are resting. We don’t need rules to help us know how to rest.

This was the point Jesus made when he healed the crippled woman (Luke 13:10-16). Her spine was so bent that she could not stand up straight. But it also meant that she could not rest, because the pain always remained. She could not even lie down flat and rest.

Jesus healed her to set her free from the bondage of the devil. He also freed her to enjoy a Sabbath rest for the first time in decades. She could lie down without pain.

Jesus called the synagogue leader a hypocrite (Luke 13:15) because he wanted to keep her in pain and unable to rest, in order to keep his sabbath rules. He had lost touch with the purpose of resting.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Temple Costs (3) Widows Offering

Mark records a warning that Jesus gave against the teachers of the law.

Watch out for the teachers of the law… They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely (Mark 38,40).
According to the Law of Moses, the widows should be supported by their families and the tithes of their neighbours. This was not happening in Israel during Jesus' time. Instead, wealth was flowing away from the widows and other poor people towards the religious leaders.

We often miss the connection, but the next incident explains how widow's houses were being devoured. Jesus sat down in the temple, and watched the people putting money into the temple treasury.

Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people threw in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little (Mark 12:41-42).
The people were giving money to pay for the cost of building Herod’s temple. They had been taught that God would bless them, if they contributed to the temple. Jesus compared the people giving.
They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on (Mark 12:44).
We assume that Jesus was honouring the widow’s generosity, but Jesus does not actually say that. Rather he points out that she gave all that she had to live on.

Is this what God wanted? Did he need the widow’s coins that would have kept her from starving? Did she need to starve, so that God could have a physical house to dwell in?

When God wanted a tabernacle, he enabled the plunder of the Egyptians, so the people could give the wealth needed to build it. The people did not have to starve to provide a dwelling place for God, because he paid for it himself.

God did not want the widow's two coins. She needed them to live on, and God wanted her to have enough to eat. She gave them to the temple, because she was under moral pressure from the false teaching of the teachers of the law. They were teaching that donations to the temple were a requirement of the law of Moses. That was not correct. The Law required that money should be given to widows by their families and their neighbours.

God would have been happier if some of the wealth being put into the temple treasury had been given to the support of the widows and the poor as the Law required. He was not that interested in funding another tourist attraction for the Roman Empire.

The widow got into poverty to pay for a temple that God no longer needed (because Jesus had come to earth and he would send the Holy Spirit to live in his followers). This was an example of the religious leaders devouring widow’s houses.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Temple Costs (2) Jesus and Peter

When put under pressure, Peter said that Jesus paid the temple tax, without checking with Jesus first (Matt 17:24-27).

Jesus asked who the kings of the world collected taxes from to pay for their palaces and armies. They don’t collect taxes from their sons, but get wealth from others.

When God wanted a tabernacle, he allowed the Israelites to plunder the Egyptians of their gold and jewellery (Ex 12:35-36). This meant that when the Israelites needed to give an offering to build it, God had already provided them with gifts to give. The wealth needed to build the tabernacle was indirectly provided by the Egyptians who had enslaved the Israelites.

This is how Herod’s temple in Jerusalem should have been paid for. If God had wanted a temple there, he would have provided the wealth from the nations. He did not expect the poor people of Israel to pay for it.

A temple tax was not specified by the law of Moses. It was a tax imposed on ordinary people by the religious leaders of Israel. In the law of Moses, all payments were voluntary. Tithing was voluntary giving to support the priests, Levites and the poor. It was not a tax.

The temple tax was an immoral imposition on the ordinary people of Israel, who could not afford it. It was not a requirement of the law.

Although it was not a requirement of the law, Jesus paid the tax to avoid creating unnecessary offence. If he made a big issue of refusing to pay, he would get distracted from proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

However, to demonstrate that God would have paid for the temple if he wanted it to be built, Jesus allowed God to provide the money for his donation. Peter caught a fish in the lake, which contained a coin that would cover both his and Peter’s tax. This proved that God could provide the wealth needed to build the temple. This action exposed the lack of the faith of the religious leaders who had resorted to a compulsory tax pay for the temple.

Taxes are the world’s way. The religious leaders were using the ways of the world to pay for God’s house. That is illogical. Jesus challenged their lack of faith by showing that God could provide what he needed for his house.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Temple Costs (1) Den of Thieves

When Jesus cleansed the temple, he accused the temple leaders of turning it from a House of Prayer into a Den of Thieves (Matt 21:12-14).

My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.
We should think about what Jesus meant when he said that the temple had become a Den of Thieves. We usually assume that the people selling stuff and changing money were charging exorbitant prices, but that was not the problem. They were charging stiff prices, but they could only charge what the market would bear. No one was forced to buy from them. People chose to buy in the temple for their own convenience. They could have purchased their offering before they arrived at the temple, or changed their money with other merchants. So, the people that Jesus threw out were technically not thieves.

The problem was that the temple system was shifting income and wealth away from the ordinary people. They were under pressure to pay for building the temple that Herod had built by making offerings that they could not afford. The temple was a great tourist attraction, so merchants and innkeepers prospered, but the poor people were being pressured into paying for it.

This was not how the law was meant to work. Under the law, money and wealth should have been flowing to the poor from the rich.

The temple itself had become a den of thieves because it was depriving the ordinary people of income and pushing them into poverty. This was the opposite of what the law required.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Trinity and Gospel

I have just listened to a talk on the Trinity and the Gospel given by Fred Sanders at the Lanier Theological Library. I like the way he brought the Trinity down to earth and explained how it is part of the gospel. Here is some of what he says, but the entire talk is worth a listen.

The Trinity and the gospel always go together.
The Father sent the Son and the Spirit. This is the main thing that happens in the Bible.

If you want to have good Trinitarian thoughts when reading the scriptures, do not look for triangles. Rather ask two questions.
What is Jesus doing, and
what is the Holy Spirit doing
as they are sent by the Father.

If you have a solid doctrine of Jesus Christ
and a solid doctrine of the Spirit,
They will include being sent from the Father
on supporting missions.

The central event for Christians is not the arrive of a book with truth in it. That might be the case for Mormon history and for Moslem history.
Christians have a book, and it is a great book.
However, the arrival of this book was not the main event.
The coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit from the Father was the main event.

This is a great talk. He handles a complicated topic in an understandable way. The good news is that the Father has sent the Son and the Spirit to rescue us.

There is also something delightful about a world expert on the trinity being called Fred.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Liberal Hegemony (9) Kinzer

I recently read Stephen Kinzer’s book called The Brothers about the John Foster Dulles and his brother Alan Dulles, who were serious Liberal Hegemonists. It is an ugly story.

In a review of Stephen Kinzer’s book called The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire, Dr Michael Welton records several lessons that Kinzer draws from American history of intervention that are worth careful reflection.

  1. American imperialists (and many Americans) truly believe that they are superior and that the world would become a better place if nations submitted to their leadership. The United States would be better off, Kinzer says, if it became a learning nation and not a teaching one.

  2. Early promoters of American intervention were zealous patriots. They proclaimed love of country and loyalty to the flag. Yet they could not imagine that people from non-white countries might feel just as patriotic. Love of country was a mark of civilization. Lesser peoples, therefore, couldn’t grasp it.

  3. Americans have been said to be ignorant about the world. They are, says Kinzer, but so are other peoples. The difference is that American leaders, puffed with a sense of mission, acted on ignorance. American leaders see little reason to bother learning about the nations whose affairs they intrude.

  4. Violent intervention in other countries always produces unintended consequences. Intervention in the Philippines sparked waves of nationalism across East Asia that contributed to the Communist revolution in China in 1949. Later American interventions also had terrible results planners never anticipated. From Iran and Guatemala to Iraq and Afghanistan, intervention has devastated societies and produced violent anti-American passion.

  5. Generations of American foreign policymakers have made decisions on three assumptions: the US is the indispensable nation that must lead the world; this leadership requires toughness; and toughness is best demonstrated by the threat or use of force. Thus: America is inherently righteous; its influence on the rest of the world always benign.

  6. Most American interventions are not soberly conceived, with realistic goals and clear exit strategies. But violent invasions always leave so-called “collateral damage”: families killed, destroyed towns, ruined lives, damaged land.

  7. The argument that the United States intervenes to defend “freedom” rarely matches facts on the ground. Many (most?) interventions prop up predatory regimes. The goal is simply to increase American power rather than to liberate the suffering.

  8. Foreign intervention has weakened the moral authority that was once the foundation of America’s political identity. Today many people around the world see it as a bully, recklessly invading foreign lands. The current invasion of Venezuela is such an example. The name “United States” is associated with bombing, invasion, occupation, night raids, covert action, torture, kidnapping, and secret prisons. Who wants to be saved by America? John Bolton recently threatened Maduro with prison in Guantanamo if he doesn’t get the hell out of Venezuela.

  9. Nations lose their virtue when they repeatedly attack other nations. That loss, as Washington predicted, has cost the United States its felicity. Kinzer says that the US can regain it only by understanding its own national interests more clearly. He thinks it is late for the United States to change its course in the world—but not too late.