Friday, October 22, 2021

Epochal Events (2) - Destruction of Jerusalem

The first big epochal event after the ministry of Jesus was the Destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus prophesied this event in Mathew 24:1-35. He explained that this disaster would happen within the lifetime of some of his listeners. I have a detailed explanation of this prophecy in Jesus Big Prophecy. This prophecy is not relevant to the season that we are living in now, so using it for that purpose will only create confusion.

Jesus perfect sacrifice on the cross made the animal sacrifices on the temple redundant. When the Jews persisted with the sacrifices after Jesus had died and rose again, they lost their purpose and become an insult to Jesus’ death. God had to bring these sacrifices to an end, so that people would realise that Jesus had done all that needed to be done and that his body had become the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The ministry of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem was also prophesied by Daniel. I give a detailed explanation of his prophecy in Seventy Weeks.

The Destruction of Jerusalem is also prophesied in Revelation 12. John’s revelation warned that the Jewish people would be scattered throughout the world. God would do this to keep them safe during the Times of the Gentiles. I give a detailed explanation of Revelation 12 in an article called the Woman and a Dragon.

The destruction of Jerusalem was an important event, but it is not the only event prophesied in the scriptures. Assuming that all of the book of Revelation is entirely about this event is a mistake.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Epochal Events - End Times (1)

I have listened to the sermons released by a number of churches in Aotearoa NZ and I note that most of them are saying that the Covid Virus is a sign that we are going into the End Times. The problem with this preaching is that the expression End Times does not exist in the scriptures. Looking for scriptures that describe a season/event that is not referred to in the Bible is problematic, because you can easily assume that a particular passage relates to a time period for which it is not relevant. This will lead to a confused understanding of what is happening.

Most of the preachers that I listened to based their sermon on Matthew 24, where they claimed to find signs of the End Times. This is a confusing way of interpreting Jesus’ Big Prophecy, because the expression End Times does not provide a clear way of understanding Jesus’ words.

The Bible describes a number of seasons and epochal events. Some have already occurred and others are still in the future. They are all named fairly clearly and it is also fairly clear which scriptures relate to each season/event. Unless we understand all these seasons/events and how they relate to each other, we will get confused about how and when various scriptural prophecies were fulfilled or will be fulfilled in the future.

Here is a list of some of the key events/seasons described in the scriptures.

  • Return from Exile
  • Messiah
  • Last Days
  • Destruction of Jerusalem
  • Times of the Gentiles
  • Time of Distress
  • Fullness of the Jews
  • Kingdom of God
  • Short Season
  • Last Day
  • Appearance of Jesus (Parousia).
  • Final Judgment
  • New Heavens and New Earth
We need to understand them and be clear about which of the various prophetic scriptures relate to each one. Rather than vaguely looking for so-called End Times scriptures, we should be looking for scriptures that apply to particular biblical events/seasons. Gathering prophetic scriptures and claiming that they refer to the end-times and therefore are relevant now will produce a misleading understanding of what is happening in the world now.

In the next few posts, I will look at some of the seasons listed above in more detail, and clarify which scriptures describe them.

Messiah
Many Old Testament prophecies looked forward to the coming of the promised Messiah (Rescuer). These prophecies were fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended into the presence of God. The coming of Jesus was the most important epochal event in the history of the world. It changed everything on earth.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Witnessing

Jesus commanded his followers to love one another as he loved us. He said that the world would be drawn to him by seeing our love. Being nice to people at the Sunday service and encouraging them is not what Jesus meant by loving one another. True love for one another can only be demonstrated in the rough and tumble of sharing life together in a much fuller way. The fullness of the Spirit can only be experienced in a group of people who love and trust each other.

Preachers tell Christians to be witnesses in their families and workplaces, but leave them feeling guilty because their best efforts mostly fail. Most pastors don’t realise how difficult is the task that they are urging their people to undertake. Pastors mostly function in the church building or offices attached to it. These spaces are controlled by the church and the subject of prayer, so they should be relatively spirit-free. Pastors will be subject to less intense spiritual pressure than the people they are urging to be witnesses.

In contrast, a workplace is often controlled by the spirits that have been given access by the owners or managers, and employees have to abide by the behaviour standards they require. Witnessing against such strong spiritual opposition while applying office rules is extremely hard.

Jesus told his people to go and witness in the home of the person of peace or in public places. The spiritual battle will be less intense under both of these options, because the person of peace will not be controlled by evil spirits. Public places are not subject to such to the direct control by anyone, so the activity of the spiritual powers of evil will have less intense there.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Individualism

Individualism is so pervasive in western culture that we don’t realise how much we have been entrapped by it. We are committed to doing our own thing in our way, with no one telling us what to do.

Jesus worked the other way round. When he sent his disciples to do even the most trivial tasks, he sent them in pairs. He was committed to teaching his disciples to work together with each other. And he reaped the benefit. When they went out in pairs, they were able to preach the gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons, just as he had done.

Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs because he knew they would spur each other on. Together they would have confidence to try things they would not normally do. Too many Christians are ineffective because they are trying to serve God on their own. They would achieve more if they were part of a pair. When Paul had a disagreement with Barnabas, he did not go out again till he had found Silas to work with. And Barnabas went out with Mark (see Power Pairs).

We can only reach our true fulfilment in Jesus if we are part of his body. That can only happen if we are joined together with other members of his body as the fingers are joined to the hand. This joining together cannot be achieved by meeting for an hour on Sundays; it will require the interaction of living life together. For that to happen, the place where we live will have to be determined by our place in the body, not by property values or proximity to good schools.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Discipleship not Preaching

Jesus never suggested that disciples can be trained by sitting and listing to an expert urging them to do things. Listening to sermons rarely changes a person’s behaviour and seldom changes their attitudes or character. The reality is that much modern preaching sets people onto a guilt trip. They are told that they are responsible for sharing the gospel and being witnesses to the world, but they don’t know how to do it. The urgency of the preacher just magnifies their guilt.

Jesus had a different way of training disciples.

  • He took people with him and did the things that he wanted them to do while they were with him observing. Sometimes they would get bold and join in.

  • Afterwards, he explained what he had done and why it was effective.

  • Once they understood his approach, he sent them out in pairs to do what he had shown them how to do.

  • Once these people were confident in doing his work, the pair could split and take two less experienced people out with them to learn how to do Jesus’ work.

Jesus’ method of discipleship frequently multiplied the number of his followers who knew to share the gospel in the same way as he did.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Go not Come

The modern church tells people to come to church at least once a week, ideally on Sunday, for their entire lifetime. It does all the important stuff at the front of the meeting on Sunday. The worship service has become the focal point of all its efforts. If people want to see God at work, they have to come to church to see the Holy Spirit moving through the pastor or guest preacher at the front of the meeting.

Most of the people of the world never see the Holy Spirit working, because they will never go to a church meeting. Putting a church service on television on streaming it on the internet is not witnessing to the world.

In contrast, Jesus told his disciples to go into the world and share the gospel in the way that he had taught them. They expected the people of the world to see what the Holy Spirit was doing amongst them and be drawn to Jesus. The early church always took the gospel into the streets and market places and the Holy Spirit confirmed their words with signs and wonders. This public visibility is why the gospel spread so quickly and the church grew so fast.

The only time when Jesus wants his people to wait is when they lack the power to go. We cannot go into the world without the fulness of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

The church says come.
Jesus says go.
He also said wait;
until you have received power from on high.
If we are not able to go out in his strength, we should wait together and cry out for him to fill us afresh. We should ask him to show us any obstacles that we need to remove. Gathering together to wait for the Holy Spirit is the only reason for not going into the world as Jesus commanded.

In modern life, a Christian is seen as someone who goes to church. Television evangelists tell those who say the sinners prayer with them to find a good church and go to it.

In contrast, Jesus would tell those who choose to follow him to look for someone who will take them with them into the world to teach them how to share the good news.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Pastor Problems

Many Christians are concerned about the increasing number of pastors who are falling from grace, due to broken marriages, accusations of child abuse and abusive behaviour. At the same time, there is growing concern about the hundreds of pastors who have stepped out of the role, because they are unable to cope with the pressures of ministry. Some commentators have suggested that the problem is lack of character and maturity. They suggest that charisma has got pastors into positions of power that their character could not handle. This misses the point.

The reason that pastors are failing or falling is that they are trying to do a job that is impossible, and a role that God never intended a human to do. Even Jesus did not attempt to pastor a church of several hundred people. He focussed on discipling twelve men and a small group of women who supported him. He trained them to do what he did, so that they could each do the same for another small group of people, allowing the movement to rapidly multiply.

The New Testament church was led by teams of elders with complementary gifts and callings. Some were pastors, some were prophets and some were evangelists. These elders replicated their ministry in the people they were discipling, raising up an ever-increasing supply of leaders for the rapidly growing church.

In contrast, the modern church has made an idol of the pastor-leader. It has become so normal to have one person as leader that people find it is hard to imagine a church that does not have one. The common cry in the church is "We need a strong leader". However, this desire for one man to lead is a consequence of the fall. Sinful people have a tendency to choose slavery and domination (1 Samuel 8:6-9), but those who have been redeemed should have the same mindset.

When Jesus ascended, he left his disciples with no one person to be the leader. He had carefully discipled them, and taught them to expect the Holy Spirit, but he deliberately avoided appointing a person to take charge. An attempt by two of the disciples to obtain a position of precedence was strongly challenged by Jesus (Mark 10:35-45). The new church did very well without a single leader.

The New Testament never states that a church should have "a pastor". Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church. They never left one man to run a church or singled out one elder to be a senior elder or pastor. They "committed them to the Lord in whom they put their trust" (Acts 14:23). In Antioch there were "prophets and teachers", not one pastor.

The pastor-leader is often given a different name: apostle senior pastor, senior leader, but it does not matter what they are called, because the role simply does not exist in the New Testament. Having a paid professional running programs to support the members of the church trains them to be passive and prevents them from doing what Jesus needs them to do.

The most serious consequence of relying on a single leader is dangerous is that it leaves leaders vulnerable during a season of spiritual struggle. When a man is at the top of an authority structure, he becomes the target of concentrated attacks by the spiritual powers of evil. If the church members submit to him, he has tremendous authority. But because he is not under the authority of anyone, he is vulnerable to demonic attack and deception. In most situations where Churches have failed, it is because, they were led by one man or one woman who got side-tracked by the spiritual powers of evil.

Over the last two decades, far too many leaders have fallen into immorality and had to step down from their ministry. This has been painful for them and their families. It has also done tremendous damage to the church and harm to the gospel. The fact that this has happened to so many good people confirms that modern church structures provide inadequate spiritual protection.

The current problem with falling pastors will not be resolved by finding pastors with better character. As long as the church persists with an unbiblical leadership structure, pastors will continue to be vulnerable to spiritual attack, and many will fall from grace.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Jeremiah and Revival

Over the last forty years, I have heard numerous and frequent prophesies that revival in New Zealand was just round the corner. My experience is not unique. Christians all over the western world are hungry for revival and the prophetic websites are full of prophecies that revival is coming and close. But despite all this hype, our hopes have been disappointed.

As I have pondered this problem, I have come to believe that we will not get the revival we are hoping for, because the leaders of the church are unwilling to follow the instructions that Jesus gave about his church should function. There is no sign of that changing, so I now doubt that revival will come in my lifetime.

I have been reading Jeremiah 5-8. It is relevant to our situation, because he was speaking to disappointed people. When troubles came, they had hoped God would rescue them from disaster and defeat, but instead things got worse.

Jeremiah would say something like this to those who are disappointed by lack of revival.

You hoped for things to go well,
but nothing good happens.
You are looking for light,
but you will find only darkness;
hard, cold, and lonely.
You are looking for revival,
but you will experience hostility,
because you have disobeyed God.
You hoped for a time of restoration,
but there was only fear and terror.
Jeremiah explained that God could not rescue the children of Israel from their troubles despite their desperate prayers. Their leaders had ignored the instructions that God had given to them.

The same is true of the modern church. The leaders of the church have ignored the instructions that Jesus gave about his church should function. The main reason our hopes of revival have been disappointed is not God is unwilling or slow to act. The reason for our disappointment is that we have not followed his instructions. It is as simple as that. You cannot ignore God’s wisdom and expect the blessing that it would bring.

A horrifying thing has happened: The prophets prophesy lies, the pastors manage according to their own ideas, and the people love it this way. But what will you do in the end (Jer 5:20-31)?
The leaders know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God.” But with one accord they have broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds (Jer 5:5).
From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain;
prophets and pastors alike, all practice deceit.
They have treated the brokenness of God’s people as though it were not serious.
They say all will be well, things will be well, when they are not well (Jer 6:14).
They have not heeded God’s words. They rejected his instructions (Jer 6:19).
They don’t listen to him, but they walk in their own wisdom and their own inclinations (Jer 7:24).
Jeremiah worried,
To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed, so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it (Jer 6:10).
Jesus gave his disciples clear instructions about how he wanted his church to operate, and he showed them how to do it. The letters to the churches clarified some issues that were not covered clearly in the gospels. The early church applied Jesus’ instructions and had amazing success in reaching the world. However, once the church was successful, it gave up many of things that Jesus had instructed it to do, and replaced them with some human ideas about how it should operate.

Although, the human way of doing things has rarely given the church the success that it had when it complied with Jesus’ instructions, it has continued to ignore them and continued to follow human ideas about how it should function. Some of these human ways of operating have become so much part of the way the normal church operates that they now seem to be non-negotiable (idols). Most Christians would find it hard to imagine the church without them, but unless we give them up and choose to apply Jesus’ instructions for the church, we will not see the revival that we are longing for.

We make excuses for our lack of success, such as secularist thinking, materialistic culture or social media, but the reality is that sharing the gospel was much harder for the early church than it is for us. The reason for our failure is not due to the hard conditions that we face, but because we don’t apply Jesus’ instructions.

Several human constructs, which are contrary to Jesus’ instructions for the church, make it impossible for God to send revival to the western church. No prophets are challenging them, but these idols will need to be removed before we can experience the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Role of Prophets in New Zealand

In an article called Prophets and Rulers, I explained that prophets have quite a limited role in speaking to political leaders who have chosen not to follow Jesus. This is the situation in New Zealand.

There are almost no Christians in our government, so they are not really interested in God’s wisdom, so prophesying to political leaders will mostly be a waste of time. Key political leaders believe that they were persecuted by the church in the past, so they are angry with Christians and do not want to hear from them.

Prophets should mostly be speaking to church leaders to explain what is happening in the spiritual realms and what they should do to prepare for the inevitable future.

New Zealand has a mixed history, sometimes good, sometimes not so good, and sometimes really bad. However, for most of our 170-year history, a sufficient number of people have trusted in God and served him. This has released tremendous blessing in the land.

Unfortunately, in recent years the faith that sustained the nation has declined. In the past, a significant portion of the people trusted God, and those who didn’t trust him still honoured Jesus. Now there are far fewer people who trust him, but far worse, most of those who don’t trust him do not honour him either. A significant number now hate Jesus and those who follow him.

This change has given the spiritual powers of evil a stronghold in the nation. Because the people of the nation have not been taught about spiritual things, they do not even know what that means.

We live in a multi-dimensional universe in which the spiritual dimensions exist in parallel to our three-dimensional physical world. The spiritual realms operate in continuity with the physical/natural world that we observe. Most humans cannot see into the spiritual dimensions, so we can only observe the physical side of existence. However, events in our physical world are shaped by activities in the spiritual realm. When we look at the physical world in isolation, we miss much of what is happening in the universe (Kingdom Authority p.28).
A war is going on in the spiritual realms that most people in New Zealand are not even aware of, and many do not even know which side they are on. Much of what happens here on earth is the consequence of events in the spiritual realms, and what happens here, has a significant effect on the relative strength of the two sides in the spiritual struggle.

Over the last few decades, the people have squeezed God out of New Zealand because they thought that we did not need him, and they did not want him messing with our lives, but without realising it, they have given his place to the spiritual powers of evil. These forces are full of hatred, anger and violence. They love to kill, destroy and steal. By shutting out the God who was restraining them, we have strengthened their position here on earth. They held back for a while to give us a false sense of security, but now they are flexing their muscles and having a go to see what they can do with their power.

The situation in New Zealand is not as good as it once was because we have chosen the wrong side in a serious spiritual battle, and the good side is losing, while the bad side is winning. Therefore, we should not be surprised that anxiety, distress and fear are becoming more common. The reason that both personal pain and economic troubles are getting worse is that we have unwittingly placed ourselves under the authority of the spiritual powers of evil. Not surprisingly, they are doing what they always do when they get an opportunity. Until they are put back in the box, we can expect that they will continue to surprise us with more and more of their evil tricks. Things are likely to get worse before they get better.

The people of the nation have put their faith in political power to solve social and economic problems, but unless the spiritual problem is solved, the efforts of political leaders will fail. People who have trusted them will eventually become disillusioned.

The role of prophets in this context is to explain to church leaders what is happening and how to prepare their people for what lies ahead.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Jeremiah

I have been reading through Jeremiah. God’s people had been ignoring God’s requirements for them. Their disobedience allowed the spiritual powers of evil to attack them and bring powerful nations against them. The thing that struck me in reading Jeremiah’s challenge was that the leaders of the people understood God’s requirements and knew that they were being ignored by the people, but they assumed that it didn’t matter that much. Without coming out directly and say it, their behaviour suggested that some of God’s requirements could be ignored without harmful consequences.

These leaders were wrong, of course, and their corrupt behaviour opened the door to the spiritual powers of evil and invading nations eventually pushed them out of their land and into exile.

In some ways, the situation is similar today. Numerous things that are the heart of the way the modern church functions cannot be supported from the scriptures. Some are contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. Yet the leaders of the church (without saying it directly) seem to assume that this failure to comply with God’s requirements does not matter. This failure to comply with God’s requirement is far more serious than they realise.

Here are four fairly straightforward examples.

  • Most modern churches are led by a professional senior pastor. Yet the role of the senior pastor is never mentioned in the New Testament. In the numerous churches that Paul planted, he appointed elders. He never appointed a senior pastor.

  • Jesus prayed that the church would have the same unity as he and the Father (John 17:11). Paul wrote that there is “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord (Eph 4:4). Yet church leaders are quite happy to split the body up into denominations, as if what Jesus requires is not important.

  • Modern churches usually buy a church building to meet in on Sundays. Yet there is no instruction in the New Testament to buy buildings. No church in the New Testament owned a building to meet in. The New Testament teaches that followers of Jesus are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so God does not need a temple to dwell in, yet these buildings are described as the house of God.

  • Jesus said that his followers would be known for their love for each other. However, the modern church supports a lifestyle where Christians live in isolation and drive to a meeting place, so the world usually does not see their love.

These four modern practices do not fit with the requirements of the gospel. Yet, most Christian leaders are not even uneasy about them, but they are far more serious failings than they realise.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Trade Routes

The United States is building billion-dollar nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers to keep its trade routes open, but something seems to have gone wrong at the other end.
See Pile up.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Revival Prophecies (7) Honest Voice

An honest prophetic voice would be warning that New Zealand is going into a season of relative darkness (not intense persecution or tribulation) when the resistance to the gospel will be stronger gospel, and hostility to Christian values will intensify. Pastors who speak out on social issues from a Christian perspective could be strongly criticised in an attempt to silence their voice.

An honest prophetic voice would be explaining that the spiritual powers of evil have seized territory throughout the nation and without facing much opposition. They have gained control of places of authority without any resistance.

In the face of this intensifying spiritual struggle, the church is floundering and confused, doing the same old things over and over again, but hoping for better outcomes this time, but knowing that it probably won’t work; knowing that they need more of the Holy Spirit, but unwilling to totally obey his voice.

At the same time, government leaders have been given more power than they have ever had, because they are expected to deliver us from evil and restore our lives to blessing, but they lack the wisdom to do what they promised.

An honest prophetic voice would be warning that the darkness rolling down on the land will be deeper and darker than anyone expect and it will take a long time for the light to penetrate and break it up. They should be warning that the opportunity for a traditional revival has passed and will not come back for some time. The spiritual powers of evil have entrenched their stronghold over the nation and they will not be pushed out easily.

At this time, an honest prophetic voice would be challenging God’s people to stop sitting around and waiting for revival prophecies to be fulfilled and use the time to get prepared so they can stand strong in a season of adversity. It would explain how they can position themselves in a place of strength, so they can share life and hope with those who are lost in the darkness.

Standing alone is the most dangerous place to be during an intense spiritual struggle. A church meeting and sermon once a week will not be sufficient to sustain Christians when they come under pressure. The Covid experience confirms that driving to a large church meeting on a Sunday to listen to teaching by a pastor might be a luxury that is not sustainable. The best possible protection during tough times is to be living close to other followers of Jesus who can provide emotional, spiritual and physical support when it is needed, not when the next meeting is due.

Followers of Jesus who live in close proximity to each other in a neighbourhood can stand together in prayer to establish an evil-spirit-free zone where the Holy Spirit is free to operate. This should not be a place to hide, but a base from which the kingdom of God can be expanded as the gospel is shared with those living around them who see the difference that the presence of the Holy Spirit makes. If these believers heal the sick and cast out demons in the power of the Spirit, the name of Jesus will be lifted up.

As these small kingdom communities grow, God will raise up elders from amongst them with balanced giftings, who will love one another and submit to each other to establish unity in the body. If one is taken out, or falls away, the others will continue to support each to watch over the flock to ensure that everyone is kept safe from evil and growing to maturity.

These kingdom communities will expand further by sending out their best elders as apostles (as others step up into their place) in a team with balanced giftings to establish a new community in another neighbourhood. They will carry on loving and serving each other, while listening and obeying the Holy Spirit, and he will keep doing what Jesus did.

An honest prophetic voice would explain that God’s plans for New Zealand have not changed. He still wants his people to take the good news of his Kingdom into the nation with sign and wonders following. He still wants us to show the world what Jesus meant when he said that his disciples would be known by their love for each other. God still wants New Zealand to be a light to the nations by demonstrating the fullness of his Kingdom by transforming society. He still wants Jesus to be acknowledged as king of New Zealand as the people freely choose to serve him and live together in obedience to his Spirit.

The main change is timing. Because opportunities have been missed, and the spiritual powers of evil are much more deeply entrenched in the authority structures of the nation, the spiritual struggle for the heart of New Zealand will be much tougher, and will take much longer. However, the outcome will be better and stronger, because it will it is established on a stronger foundation by being refined by fire.

For this to happen, God’s people will need strong prophetic guidance about how to deal with the pressure, and how to establish and grow kingdom communities, not vague promises about a coming revival that never comes.

This full series can be read at NZ Revival Prophecies.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Revival Prophecies (6) Real Community

During the 1970s, there was a massive buzz about real community. People were thinking seriously about Jesus new commandment and what it means to “Love one another as Jesus loved us”. They realised that this meant more than a meeting once a week. People were thinking about how the practices described in the first few chapters of Acts could be applied in the modern world.

This interest in developing real communities accompanied a hunger for deeper relationships, as the Holy Spirt inspired people to connect with and support other people. Various strands supported this interest.

  • Teaching about body ministry was popular.

  • Many Christians read Edith Shaeffer’s book called “L’Abrie”. While the nerds were reading Francis Shaeffer’s books about Truth and Reason, others were inspired by the story of their community in Switzerland.

  • Speakers from overseas were sharing at conferences in New Zealand about their experiences in developing intentional communities.

  • People were reading books about Christians who had developed a deeper community in their homes. One example was Love is an Open Home by Bill Bair.

  • A friend had a vision of four houses close together with Jesus standing above them and shining his light upon them. This type of vision was common.

I am certain that the Holy Spirit was the inspiration for this interest in community.

Quite a few people tried doing something different. Most found it too hard and eventually gave up. Their struggle is not surprising because they were pushing hard against the world and the spirit of the age. The eighties were a very materialistic decade when everybody seemed to be working hard to get ahead.

Unfortunately, there was very little prophetic guidance or encouragement about how the people of the Spirit should live. One reason is that despite Ephesians 4 being studied assiduously during this season, the prophetic ministry was not really nurtured. Churches that were touched by the Holy Spirit continued to be pastor-centric, so it is not surprising that the movement did not get the prophetic guidance it needed.

Inspiration and guidance for the future came mostly from books and visiting international speakers rather than from a home-grown prophetic voice.

When the Charismatic renewal petered out, the prophecies about revival coming soon kept on coming. Looking back, it seems like they had missed a season of opportunity.

Part of the role of a prophet is to interpret the events of history and explain to the people what was happening. However, when the Charismatic Renewal slowly died out, no prophetic voices examined the move to understand what had gone wrong because they still believed revival was coming. No one asked seriously why such a wonderful opportunity had been missed.

I believe that the hunger for a deeper community back then was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but it is gone now. The buzz about community has died. This is a serious obstacle to revival coming at this time.

The next generation is watching The Block and other home renovation programmes on television and thinking about how they can progress up the property ladder. They are not thinking about what community means for those who have chosen to follow Jesus.

There is a lot of noise about the Kingdom of God, but it is mostly ephemeral, and there is no understanding that a kingdom is a social order, comprised of communities.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Revival Prophecies (5) What Went Wrong

In the 1970s, New Zealand was ripe for revival. The Holy Spirit was moving and touching people lives in dramatic ways. People were approaching friends and asking them to pray for them. They were asking them about the Holy Spirit. People were asking friends to tell them about Jesus.

It seemed that revival had started. Yet it didn’t kick on. It seemed like the revival was choked before it could get started. Recently, I have been thinking about why. The following are a few of the reasons.

  • The move of the Spirit started in people homes with people praying for each other for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Many leaders tried to shift the life of the Spirit away from people’s homes into church meetings, but the gifts of the Spirit had to be managed to avoid disruption, but this control tended to suffocate spiritual freedom. Gradually, as the decade progressed, the life of the Spirit was sucked up by the church and the move suffocated.

  • When church leaders tried to take the gifts of the Holy Spirit into their church meetings, things sometimes got unruly and important people got upset, so they were forced to establish control over the release of spiritual gifts in the church service. This eventually quenched the moving of the Holy Spirit, so the gifts of healing and deliverance became the prerogative of travelling ministries praying for needy people at the front of the church meeting, because they could be trusted to behave safely.

  • People with potential leadership spread themselves too thin to be effective. Things that had happened when they were together, stopped happening when they went out on their own.

  • Many of the leaders of the movement trained to be pastors and moved in the leadership of existing churches. They often had to compromise to keep everyone happy, which limited their freedom to follow the Holy Spirit and release his presence.

  • The move was too quickly captured by the church growth movement. The church started to rely on technique and good organisation rather than on the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit. This brought order out of the disorder but probably dulled the move of the Spirit.

  • The influence of the megachurch movement in the United States created a sense that big meetings were of more value than house meetings.

  • The energy of people of the Spirit was put into worship in seeker-friendly services.

  • Many people who had been active in the renewal moved into Pentecostal churches. Their emphasis on leadership by a pastor reduced the ability of these lay people to continue what they had been doing to share the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and many ended up being frustrated.

  • Some laypeople tried to invigorate their established church, but this proved to be a hard slog, and the life of the Spirit was sucked out of them. There was no prophetic guidance about what was happening and what they should do; just the prophecies that revival was coming. Those who struggled in their dead churches assumed that these prophecies applied to their churches, so they kept trying, but with very little success.

  • Some existing church leaders saw the success and jumped on the charismatic bandwagon, without diving in and learning to walk in the fulness of the Spirit. They found it hard to keep churches that had experienced the life of the Spirit moving forward.

  • The spiritual powers of evil got up to all their usual tricks to weaken leaders with exhaustion in to disable them by pushing them into immorality. Some leaders were distracted into inappropriate roles. Others fell into adultery, and a few got caught up in sexual abuse. Some followers of Jesus were sucked into false teachings about end-times and political powers. The evil powers worked hard to bring division between people who should have been working together. The spiritual powers of evil do all they can do to snuff out a revival.

  • The leaders of the movement were over-confident and did not take spiritual warfare seriously enough. Too many key leaders were taken out in various ways. A controlling and manipulative spirit wiggled its way in some places, mostly where leaders were insecure. This spirit choked the life and the gifts of the Spirit.

  • Hunger for deeper community life was slowly stifled by the trials of life and gradually died. Failure to nurture this hunger and bring it through to fulfilment is one reason why we have not received the revival that was prophesied (more on this in my next post).

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Revival Prophecies (4) NZ 1970s

Looking back, the situation in New Zealand during the 1970s seemed to be ripe for revival.

  • Many people had attended Sunday School as children or had learned about Jesus and God in Bible and Schools programmes. So they already knew something about the truths of the gospel.

  • Many Members of Parliament were Christians. The leaders of some of the parties openly attended church. Christians had a voice in the government of the nation. This had a restraining effect on the spiritual powers of evil.

  • Churches were generally well respected.

  • Church ministers conducted most funerals and weddings, and they were often the counsellors people went to for advice when they were in trouble. They were generally respected and trusted.

  • People trusted the social support provided by Chrisitan organisations.

  • Most people still held a residual Christian worldview.

  • The Charismatic Renewal had refreshed many Christians. A large number were reinvigorated in their faith and stirred for action.

  • People who had come to faith during the Billy Graham crusades in 1959 were renewed by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

  • People were being healed when believers in Jesus prayed for them.

  • The effectiveness of deliverance from evil spirits was rediscovered.

  • Inspired by the Jesus Movement in the US, young people here were sharing their faith with their friends, and many were choosing to follow Jesus.

If there was going to be a revival in New Zealand, this was the time when it should have happened.

The conditions seemed to be right, but revival did not come. I will discuss some of the reasons in the next post, but getting an opportunity for revival like New Zealand received during the 1970s is a huge privilege. Having not taken the opportunity God offered during that season, we cannot just assume that another opportunity will happen again soon.

What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered (Matt 21:28-31).

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Revival Prophecies (3) Fifty Years

I have recently been thinking and writing about the numerous prophecies that revival would come to New Zealand. I first started hearing them when I became a Christian during the 1970s. At that time, the nation seemed to be far more open to the gospel than it is now (I will say more about that in a future post). The prophecies about revival have kept on coming since then, despite the situation in New Zealand becoming much more difficult for the advance of the gospel than it was when I first heard them. The difference between that season and now is striking. Winning the nation for the gospel has become much harder over the last fifty years.

  • Clergy are now openly mocked on television. If they appear in entertainment shows, they are made to look weak and foolish.

  • Most weddings and funerals are now conducted by secular celebrants. Christian content is mostly gone from these ceremonies.

  • The news media frequently report on sexual and physical abuse of children and women by church leaders and staff of Chrisitan organisations. Christians see these incidents as having nothing to do with Jesus, but that is not how the people of the world see it. They see Christian organisations condoning abuse. Christian leaders have lost respect, and some of the hostility attaches to Jesus.

  • Mainstream media readily publish articles mocking the church.

  • The culture has become increasingly secular. Many young people do not even know who Jesus is, and they know nothing about his life and ministry.

  • People now get their ideas about life and the world from television and social media. The influence of the church as a thought leader has declined dramatically.

  • People are used to listening to snippets on television and social media, so they don’t know how to listen to a sermon unless they are trained by church attendance. This means that preaching has become an ineffective tool for evangelism.

  • Many people see church services as strange events that they would be frightened to participate in. They are scared of being embarrassed because they would not know what to do.

  • Covid is going to limit the ability of the church to function in the way that it has in the past. It might be a long time before seeker-friendly services are practical.

  • Many people see the church as an institution that attempts to control people, not set them free. It is seen as desperately clinging to outdated and repressive values from the past.

  • When many people think of the church, they see an organisation that takes money off people who cannot afford it.

  • Many people now believe that all religions are valid and people should be free to choose which one they prefer. Some believe that eastern religions are better than Christianity because they are less violent.

  • When crises occur, people no longer look to God for deliverance. They look to friends and family, and government-funded social services.

  • Pressure from social media makes living a Christian life increasingly difficult.

  • The spiritual powers of evil have entrenched their authority in all aspects of the life of the nation.

  • There are very few Christians in parliament. A significant number of MPs are really hostile to Christianity, and many hate the church. The church no longer has a serious voice in the political world.

  • The current government is passing laws against Hate Speech and Conversion Therapy. The new laws do not define these concepts very clearly, so they have to be interpreted by judges. As social attitudes change, these laws could be used to silence outspoken pastors.

These changes make a revival that will transform the nation much less likely than it was when the prophecies of revival were first shared. So prophesying that revival is just around the corner, when it clearly wasnt when these prophecies were first made, doesn't make sense.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Revival Prophecies (2) Rare

Revival is rare, because it is not very easy for God to deliver. Getting the Holy Spirit to do his will is easy, but to bring a powerful revival in a nation, he has to get a whole lot of people doing what he wants them to do at the same time, and that does not happen that often. His people have to share the gospel when he wants them to. They need to pray for the sick when he wants them to. At the same time, he needs those who hear the gospel to respond quickly and gladly. It sounds easy, but he has made people free, so he cannot force people to do what he wants them to do.

For a crowd of people to do what God wants at the same time, they first of all need to hear what he is telling them to do. Unfortunately, God’s people are not always listening when he speaks. And even when his people hear what he is saying, they don’t always jump to obey it. Even if God has told people to do things that will trigger revival, there is no guarantee that they will be done.

I know that God often finds it hard to get me to do something important, so I presume that it is the same for most other Christians. Therefore, getting the followers of Jesus in a nation to unite and participate in revival is more difficult than we assume.

This difficulty is confirmed by a study of Christian history. Revivals that touch an entire nation and transform it have been relatively rare. The early church took off with the massive revival recorded in Acts 2. But it was not long before the church in Jerusalem was struggling with heresy. Paul received a great response when he preached the gospel and established churches in Asia Minor. However, not long after, he was struggling with opposition from political powers and people who wanted to shackle the gospel with Jewish traditions (2 Cor 11:23-27). By the time that John was writing his letters at the beginning of this Revelation, many of the churches that Paul had planted had slipped in lukewarmness.

Revival is not a normal condition for the church, not because God does not want it, but because he finds it difficult to obtain the level of obedience to the Holy Spirit that he needs to achieve a massive outworking of his blessing. For most of Christian history, the work of the church has been a hard slog, with a few people heeding his calling to move in the power of his Spirit to share the good news of Jesus with a hungry world, while many others have struggled to do what God wants them to do.

The other difficulty with revival is that the spiritual powers of evil fight against it tooth and nail. They work hard to weaken leaders with exhaustion and to disable them by pushing them into immorality. They work hard to deceive the followers of Jesus with false teachings. They try hard to bring division between people who should be on the side. The spiritual powers of evil do all they can do to snuff out a revival before it gets underway and becomes impossible to stop. I presume that far more revivals are smothered by the powers of evil than flow on to fulness in the power of the Spirit.

For a church and a nation to be ready to receive revival is relatively rare. So those who do experience it are relatively privileged and should appreciate the opportunity.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Revival Prophecies (1)

Soon after I became a follower of Jesus nearly forty years ago, I heard Christian leaders declaring that God would send a massive revival to New Zealand. This message of hope has continued to be proclaimed right up to the present day. Visiting speakers who flew into New Zealand would speak of seeing visions of angels, or bright lights, or something similar. They often declared that New Zealand has a special place in God’s eyes and that revival is just around the corner.

I have always believed in these promises, as they made sense in terms of my experience. I had been living as an atheist when God reached out and grabbed me with the gospel and prompted me to chose to follow Jesus. A year later when I was spiritually hungry, the Holy Spirit overwhelmed me and gave me a heavenly language to enlighten my prayer and praise. I have seen people healed and broken lives restored by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I do not consider myself special, so I have always assumed that if God could do these things for me, he could do them for other people just as easily. Consequently, I have always expected that God would visit us soon and bring revival to our nation. I have trusted the promises of revival given by the prophetic people and recommended them to others.

For the last forty years, this has been axiomatic for me. Humans are invigorated by hope, so we naturally cling to promises of hope. The hope of revival inspired much of what I did for God.

No Longer
After forty years, I still trust God as much as ever, but I am no longer convinced that the prophecies of revival will be fulfilled. I see no signs that revival is getting closer; in fact, it seems to be further away than ever (I will explain why in a future post).

Instead of just assuming that revival is coming soon, I am pondering why these promises have not been fulfilled, especially if they reflect the heart of God. I am certain that God is not the problem. I still believe that he is capable of sending revival if he chooses, but it has not come. If he is not the problem, it must be us. I assume that God’s people are the problem, not God.

I have now arrived at the conclusion that most of the promises/prophecies about a move of God were a true reflection of his heart, but he has been unable to achieve his purposes because his church was unwilling to do what needed to be done.

To contain a powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit on their nation, the church would have to make significant changes to the way that it operates. But the church and its leaders have not been willing to make those changes, so the hoped-for move of God has not come.

I see no end to his chokepoint. God knows what needs to be done to bring revival to the nation, but he can’t get his church to do what needs to be done first. I have very little hope that the situation will change soon, so the promised revival is probably further away than ever.

One role of the Old Testament prophets was to explain why promised blessings did not arrive as expected. When things went wrong in Israel, people wanted to know why, and the prophets were expected to provide the answers.

I am not very attentive to prophecies that restate the same promises of revival that have been repeated over and over again for the last fifty years. After all this time waiting, I am looking for prophecies that can explain why they have not been fulfilled.

I believe that repeated prophecies of revival are distracting God's people from hearing what he is really saying to them.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Technical Mangerialism fails in Afghanistan

Alistair Crooke has written one of the best explanations of the failure of the US military intervention in Afghanistan (read the full article here). He says that the war intended to demonstrate the success of technical managerialism.

Afghanistan turned into a testbed for every single innovation in technocratic project management – with each innovation heralded as precursor to our wider future. Funds poured in: Buildings were thrown up, and an army of globalised technocrats arrived to oversee the process. Big data, AI and the utilization of ever expanding sets of technical and statistical metrics, were to topple old ‘stodgy’ ideas. Military sociology in the form of Human Terrain Teams and other innovative creations, were unleashed to bring order to chaos. Here, the full force of the entire NGO world, the brightest minds of that international government-in-waiting, were given a playground with nearly infinite resources at their disposal.

This was to be a showcase for technical managerialism. It presumed that a properly technical, and scientific way of understanding war and nation-building would be able to mobilize reason and progress to accomplish what everyone else could not, and so create a post-modern society, out of a complex tribal one, with its own storied history.

Of course, these efforts turned into a disaster. The consequences will be far-reaching. Crooke quotes the Swedish intellectual Malcolm Kyeyune, who explains why managerialism is failing.
Western society today is openly ruled by a managerial class...

Our managerial leaders deserve to rule us, because managerialism as a world ethos is the only means of effecting functional rule in the context of a modern, international, post-national, information driven, knowledge economy, rules-based… well, you probably already know all the familiar buzzwords beloved by this class of people.

Put plainly: managers, through the power of managerialism, were once believed to be able to mobilize science and reason and progress to accomplish what everyone else could not, and so only they could secure a just and functional society for their subjects...

I suspect we are currently witnessing the catastrophic end of this metaphysical power of legitimacy that has shielded the managerial ruling class for decades...

It is not just that the elite class is incompetent; it is that they are so grossly, spectacularly incompetent that they walk around among us as living rebuttals of meritocracy itself...

To make the situation worse, the current elites seem almost serene in their willful destruction of the very fields they rely on for legitimacy...

In modern America, it is the meritocrats who now openly lack any merit or ability to rule, quickly undermining the ability of the average person to believe in the very foundational claims behind the managerial order...

Still, it is quite obvious that the epoch of the liberal technocrat is now over. The bell has well and truly tolled for mankind’s belief in their ability to do anything else than enrich themselves and ruin things for everyone else...

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Deferred Hope

I chose to become a follower of Jesus in 1974. Soon afterwards, I began to hear/read prophecies that God was going to send revival to New Zealand. Similar prophecies were common right up to the present day. Many visiting international speakers would say that God is going to do something big in New Zealand. For all of my life as a follower of Jesus, we have had this promise in front of us that revival is coming soon.

Humans need hope, so when we get a message that gives hope, we naturally cling to it. The hope that we have in Jesus gives us purpose for life. A hope that is true, strengthens our faith.

On the other hand, trust in a false hope can sustain us for a time, but because it does not deliver, a false hope eventually leads to disappointment. The well-known proverb says,

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Prov 13:12).
A hope that never comes weakens the faith of those who trust in it. In contrast, a hope that is fulfilled strengthens their lives. A hope of imminent revival has been around for most of my adult life without being fulfilled. I have been wondering about the effect of a hope that is promised continuously throughout a lifetime, but is also constantly deferred. I presume that many Christians would say that it has inspired them to keep going in serving Jesus.

However, there is another side to this issue. The message to the church has been that revival is coming soon. The hope that has been declared is that a visitation of God is near. A hope that better times are coming soon can cause us to put off doing activities that are demanding until our situation improves. We can unconsciously slip into the habit of deferring tough changes that are urgently needed until the time when the visitation of God comes, because they will be easier then.

I cannot help wondering if the prophecies that revival is coming soon prevented Christians from doing some of the things that God was calling them to do, because they assumed that it would be easier to do them when the revival had come.

We can’t know the answer, but what would have happened instead, if we had had prophecies for the past forty years declaring that we are going into a tough season when hostility to the gospel would massively increase, our society would be increasingly secularised and that many of the common activities of the church would cease to be effective. Would some Christians have given up? I doubt it. Maybe it would have inspired those who were serious about the gospel to work harder at sharing it? Maybe it would have inspired those who were interested in becoming a real community to strive harder to love one another as Jesus loved us.

The prophecies that a visitation of God would bring a massive revival very soon were not really totally true. Maybe they lulled the people of God into a false sense of security that everything would be fine, although they were not. We still assume they were good because they were encouraging, even though the expected fulfilment did not come; but maybe they did more harm than good.

In 1974, a prophecy that revival was not coming soon but was a long way off would have been truer than what we got. That might have spurred people on to greater zeal for Jesus than a hope that seems to have been repeatedly deferred. If I had known in the 1980s that the promises of revival would not be fulfilled during the next thirty years, I might have done some things differently.

This is also a challenge to prophetic people making declarations about what God is going to do. Timing is important. If their promises are for a distant future, they should be careful not to give the impression that the fulfilment is close, because they could be creating a hope that will soon be deferred. Repeating the promise again is not the solution to a deferred hope.

The modern church needs a more realistic diagnosis of the current situation. It needs a prophetic voice that will stop talking about what God is going to do soon and focus instead on what God wants his people to do now.