Saturday, May 19, 2018

Chao is worse than Tyranny???

A well-known theologian recently gave this justification for the power of the state.

God wants the world to be ordered not chaotic. There is a role for civil authorities, and sooner or later, faced with wicked angry, violent bullying people, they have to do restrain them, and restraint involves violence.

Chaos is worse than tyranny.

Anarchy does not solve anything.

This is a common view, but there are two problems with his statement.
  • Throughout history, most of the violence and bullying has been done by civil authorities. If they are given authority to use violence, who will restrain them. This model does not protect people from wicked and bullying governments. Tyranny is often terrible.

  • More importantly, this statement cannot be justified from the scriptures. God did not establish governments and kings to establish order in the world. Kings were an ideal stolen from the surrounding nations.

God gave his law to provide order amongst his people. His law applied by local judges is the best protection against violence, bullying and wickedness.
Law is good if it is used in the right way. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful (1 Tim 1:8-9).
Law is good when used for the right purpose. God gave his law to restrain law-breakers and rebels. Yet his people ignore his law, and choose to live under civil authorities, who claim a monopoly on violence and yet fail to protect their people.

My book Government of God explains how God's law applied by local judges in a community of love brings the order to society that people want.

Monday, May 14, 2018

One Another Stuff

The New Testament does not teach us to worship with one other.

Instead, it tells us to do all these "One Anothers".

  • Love one another (1 John 3:11,23; 4:7,11;).
  • Love one another (2 John 1:5;).
  • Love one another (1 Thes 3:12;).
  • Love one another (1 Pet 1:22; 4:8;).
  • Love one another (Rom 13:8).
  • Be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10).
  • 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).
  • Instruct (admonish) one another (Rom 15:14).
  • Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you (Rom 15:7).
  • Greet one another (Rom 16:16; 1 Peter 5:14).
  • Agree with one another so that may be perfectly united (1 Cor 1:10).
  • 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).
  • Bearing with one another in love (Eph 4:2).
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph 4:32).
  • Forgive one another (Eph 4:32).
  • Speak to one another (Eph 5:19).
  • Submit to one another (Eph 5:21).
  • Agree with each other (Phil 4:2).
  • Forgive one another (Col 3:13).
  • Teach and admonish one another (Col 3:16).
  • Encourage one another (1 Thes 4:18; 5:11).
  • 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).
  • Encourage one another daily (Heb 3:13).
  • Spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24).
  • Encourage one another (Heb 10:25).
  • Keep on loving each other as brothers (Heb 13:1).
  • Confess your sins to each other (James 5:16).
  • Pray for each other (James 5:16).
  • Love one another deeply, from the heart (1 Pet 1:22).
  • 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).
  • Greet one another with a kiss of love (1 Pet 5:14).
  • Have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7).
If we only come together for worship and listening to sermons, which the New Testament does not require, we will not have time to do the "One Another Stuff" that the New Testament does require. For these, we have to be together.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Torah

The Books of Moses (Torah) were not a set of rules for earning salvation. God had already rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by grace when he gave them. He had given them a new land by grace, too.

The Torah was not a system of salvation by works. It was a way to preserve the deliverance and salvation that they had already received by grace. They needed protection from three things.

  • The tabernacle sacrifices provide them with protection from the spiritual powers of evil.
  • The justice laws provided protection from internal conflict that could tear them apart.
  • The laws of separation and defence provided protection against attacks from the surrounding nations.

Works of Law

Theologians argue about what Paul meant by “works of the law” (Rom 3:20,28; Gal 2:16;3:2,5,10). They argue about which laws the expression describes, but this misses the point. Work of law are "works of law", not "responses to grace". When any law stops being grace for protection, and becomes a work to earn salvation or blessing, it is a work of law. Any law can stop being grace for protection and become an effort to earn blessing by works.

Paul was responding to Jews living under the domination of the Roman empire. This made it impossible to apply the justice laws and the Instructions for Economic Life. In this environment, it was easy to focus on the laws about food and the Sabbath that distinguished them from the Romans.

While living under Roman rule, they did not feel like that had been delivered by race, so it was easy to slip into trying to earn God’s blessing. Without a sense of God grace, it was easy to fall into the trap of turning Sabbath and food laws into works of law.

Messiah

Paul has been criticised for claiming that the Judaism was faulty. The issue is not that the Torah was faulty, but that it was incomplete and needed to be fulfilled.
  • The tabernacle sacrifices were effective for dealing with the spiritual powers of evil, but they pointed to Jesus. It was because they foreshadowed Jesus perfect sacrifice that they spiritual powers of evil had to accept them. Once Jesus died and rose again the temple sacrifices became redundant, because Jesus sacrifice did every that they tried to do, but more completely. That is why God shut them down in AD 70. When the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus, the temple sacrifices lost their efficaciousness, and the spiritual protection of the people and the temple was lifted.

    If the leaders of modern Israel rebuild the temple and start the sacrifices, they will not be effective for dealing with the spiritual powers of evil, because they would not point to Jesus.

  • The Torah also needed the Holy Spirit to be fulfilled. Without the fruit of the Spirit, loving your neighbour as yourself was almost impossible. Jesus death, resurrection and ascension opened the way for the Holy Spirit to be poured out. The Spirit was able to the Torah on the hearts of those who choose to serve Jesus.

If Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, it was natural that he would change Torah observance.
  • Jesus made the temple sacrifices and priesthood redundant. He expected people to trust his perfect sacrifice and redemption.
  • Jesus modified the Sabbath for an urban culture and re-focussed it on meeting human needs.
  • The feasts were fulfilled by Jesus and replaced with the Lord’s Supper.
  • Food laws were modified to allow his followers to take the gospel into alien cultures.
God’s system of justice and protection remained. Jesus declares that the laws of justice continued to be authoritative.

Jesus confirmed the Instructions for Economic Life and used them to restore village life. When he sent his disciples out on a mission, he told them to go to a village and stay with a person of peace. Their aim was not just to get converts, but to invigorate the Instructions for Economic Life to restore village communities to God’s model for economic life. The disciples took no money with them, so they would be dependent on giving and sharing for their survival. They would give healing and deliverance from evil spirits. The people of the village would give them food and shelter. The experience would jolt them into implementing the Instructions for Economic Life.

Jesus tightened the law for his followers by changing “love your neighbour” into “love one another”.

Big Box

The Torah is a big box. It contains the following.

  • Creation
  • History
  • Patriarchs
  • Genealogies
  • Land distribution
  • Covenant
  • Sacrifices
  • Tabernacle design
  • Priesthood
  • Feasts
  • Vows
  • Blesses and curses
  • Infection control
  • Food rules
  • Instructions for Economic Life
  • Judicial Laws
The judicial laws and the Instructions for Economic Life were really important protecting the peace and welfare of their society.

The Torah was not intended to make people righteous. That could only happen after the cross and the Spirit. The tabernacle sacrifices were given so that unrighteous people could have spiritual protection and be at peace with God.

Judaism

Although the Torah is grace, not works, Judaism at the time of Jesus and Paul was not really Torah-observant. Being controlled by the Romans, they could not apply the system of justice and defence that God gave in the Torah. They were also neglecting the Instructions for Economic Life. As Jesus pointed out, they were ignoring the weighty parts of the law like justice and economics. Instead, they were obsessed with the less important parts of the law, that distinguished them from the surrounding culture:

  • Food laws
  • Sabbath
  • Circumcision.
Perhaps these were the easiest to practice when living in a strange culture and wanting to be separate from it.

Note: Circumcision was not part of the law. It had been given to Abraham as a way of distinguishing his physical descendants.

Judaism had given up some important parts of the Torah as it accommodated with Roman and Greek culture. The point of the laws of separation was to provide spiritual protection from the evil spirits that surrounding nations carried. Once Jews had moved to living amongst the Romans and Greeks, refusing to eat with them was pointless, because they had already given up the spiritual protection that the Torah provided.

Gentiles

The civil laws in the Torah dealt with the following:
  • Assault
  • Murder
  • Theft
  • False Witness
  • Adultery/sexual immorality
  • Judicial process
  • War
  • Parents
  • Sabbath
  • Mixture
  • God
  • Blasphemy
Some theologians argue that Paul did not tell Jews to stop observing the Torah. They say that he only told the Gentiles to stop being Torah-observant. Once the full scope of the Torah laws is understood, it becomes clear that this is wrong.

Paul taught the Gentiles to obey the weightier parts of the Torah.

  • Paul taught gentile Christians to apply the Instructions for Economic Life. He supported giving and sharing within communities and between communities (2 Cor 8,9; Phil 4:10-19).)

  • Paul taught gentile Christians how to implement the justice and protection laws in their communities (1 Cor 5, 6:1-8; Rom 13:1).

  • He encouraged the application of laws about adultery and sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:9-19).

  • Paul encouraged children to honour their parents (Eph 6:1-3).

  • Paul encouraged a day of rest on the Lord’s day.

  • With regard to food, Paul focussed on meat that had been offered to idols. He explained that this was fine if Christians gave thanks to the Lord. Interestingly, the Torah did not forbid eating meat that had been offered to idols.


Monday, April 30, 2018

Nationalism and Religion

Nationalism substituted the nation for the deity, the citizen body for the church and the political kingdom for the Kingdom of God, but in every other respect replicated the forms and qualities of traditional religions.
AD Smith in Nationalism and Modernism.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Deceit and Lies

Daniel prophesied a terrible political power (beast) that would trample the earth. Its demise will bring a great victory for the Kingdom of God (Dan 7:27). (If this prophecy is to be fulfilled in our time, then there is only one nation powerful enough to fit).

Daniel says that when it rises to power.

It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground (Dan 8:12).
He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior (Dan 8:25).
Lies and deceit seem to be thriving in the current season.

More at Times and Seasons

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Love not Rules

The Instructions for Economic Life provide guidance to God’s people for living together in a new land. His main goal was that they learn to love their neighbours (Love 19:18).

God is not a control freak. He wants his people to be free, so he did not give detailed regulations spelt out in black and white, but gave general principles and left the people to work out how to apply them by thinking about how they could love their neighbour.

The Pharisees wanted detailed rules, down to the level of which herbs to tithe on (Matt 23:23). But God is not interested in rules-based behaviour, he wants love motivated behaviour. Following detailed rules is often easier because it does not require thinking, but that was not what God wanted. He gave general instructions for economic behaviour and left his people to work out want they meant while loving their neighbours.

The principle applies even more in the age of the Spirit. The Instructions for Economic Life are not detailed rules. They provide general boundaries, but our daily actions must be shaped by loving one another within their guidance (Rom 13:10). Likewise, the Holy Spirit does not give us detailed minute-by-minute instructions on what to do each day. He teaches us how to apply God’s general Instructions for Economic Life while living one another by prompting and questioning.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sports Nationalism

I find it rather bizarre when a competition between individual athletes is turned into a competition between nations. I suppose that it is better than fighting wars to decide who is best, but why do nations need to prove that they are better than other nations.

I also feel sorry for the athletes. They do all the hard training, but their nation takes much of the credit.

The concept of an individual athlete representing their country is quite odd. An elected politician cannot represent me, so how can an unelected athlete be my representative.

I am sure that many Christian are really stirred up about their nation's sports performance. I just wish they would be as stirred up about the Kingdom of God.

I am very wary of cheering for a national team. It is odd to say "We won" when all we did was sit on a couch, and perhaps cheer.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games are nearly over. Here in NZ we have had wall-to-wall television coverage, but I presume the people in the United States and Europe hardly knew they were on.

The so-called commonwealth is a purposeless group of nations connected to Britain as a residue of the British Empire. Originally, the games were called the Empire Games. The games were a way for the British to bring their colonies together and show their prowess off to the world.
The British Empire was renamed to the British Commonwealth when it colonies were given political freedom, while economic domination by Britain continued out of sight. Following the demise of British power post-World War 2, it is no longer called the British Commonwealth, but simply the Commonwealth. Although there is not much common wealth.

The wealthy nations of the commonwealth like Australia, Canada, and England like these games because their elite sports people can go for gold medals with some of the best competitors in their sport excluded and minor competition provided from some of the poorer or smaller countries of the world.

I am not sure what is the point of an international competition where three-quarters of the nations of the world are excluded. It is not really an international competition.

Gathering in one place for a big competition might have made sense back in the 1950s, when international travel was limited. Air travel has changed that. Now most sports have regular frequent international competitions, and most top athletes compete regularly with the best in the world, so getting a group of nations together for a pretend international competition does not make sense.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

International Hypocrisy

International hypocrisy has struck again in Syria.

Donald Trump (a man of great moral wisdom 😊) with support from the leaders of the UK and France have decided that Bashar al-Assad is evil and must be punished, without waiting for the official OPCW investigation to be completed. (The same intelligence agencies who were sure about WMD in Iraq are sure that they know what happened).

Meanwhile, Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is continuing his unprovoked war in Yemen without restraint. With US logistical support, the Saudi air force has bombed schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. Save the Children estimate that 5000 children have been killed. A Saudi blockade of Yemeni ports is shutting out imports of food, with the result that 400,000 of children are on the verge of starvation.

Yet Prince Salman is rewarded for his evil with a visit to the US Whitehouse. The leaders of the UK and France are falling over themselves to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Saudi.

Evil seems to look better when it is accompanied by oil wealth.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Blood of Jesus

Some Christians seem to be embarrassed by the blood of Jesus. This is sad because the blood is at the heart of the gospel.

We need to distinguish three things with regard to the blood.

  1. What the blood actually does in situ.
  2. How it is offered
  3. What it does when offered.
1. When it is in the body, of person or animal, it is life. We cannot live without it. It also carries antibodies to kill viruses. Once blood is outside the body, it quickly dries up and dies.

2. The only way it can be offered is by a death (of the animal or Jesus) if you exclude the other possibilities of the bloodletting by physicians in the 19th century, cannulation at a blood bank, or self-harming. I presume that the Bible has none of the latter in mind, so death is necessary for blood to be shared.

3. What blood achieves can only be discovered through revelation. 1) can only partially inform 3).

The translation of Hebrews 9:22 is misleading. Saying that blood produces “forgiveness”, makes it sound like the blood changes God’s attitude to us, ie God is changed. The word translated as forgiveness is “aphesis” which also means freedom. “Without blood there is no freedom”. This makes it clear that it is our situation that is changed by the blood, not God.

We are redeemed by the blood, ie bought back (Eph 1:7). If blood changes our situation and sets us free, the big question is who we are set free from. God does not enslave, so it must be the spiritual powers of evil that we are set free from.

More at Propititation and Redemption.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Free Book

The Kindle version of my book Being Church Where We Live is available free for two days beginning Saturday 7 April 2018 at 12:00 AM PDT.
Key Themes for Radical Christians

  • Building Relationships
  • Power Pairs
  • Making Disciples
  • Spiritual Protection
  • Balanced Ministry
  • Role of the Apostle
  • Prophets in the Church
  • Real Pastor/Teachers
  • Healing Evangelism
  • Dynamic Deacons

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Ressurection

The resurrection was a huge victory for Jesus.

  1. The resurrection took nothing away from the crucifixion. The pains and suffering of Jesus was not reversed. The penalty for sin was still paid. Redemption was available for all who would trust in Jesus.

  2. The resurrection was a huge defeat for the devil, who thought that he had killed the only real threat to his power. By rising from the dead, Jesus exposed the Devil’s weakness. He could not get Jesus to sin and he could not kill him, so he now was powerless against him. Jesus could go on and complete his mission and the devil was powerless against him. He could ascend into heaven beyond the reach of evil.

  3. The resurrection was a massive defeat for the principalities and powers that carry out the devil’s purposes. God used the resurrection to destroy their power.

    He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion (Eph 1:20.21).
    The principalities and powers had worked through the Roman empire and the Jewish religious to destroy Jesus. The resurrection turned their best efforts into failure.

  4. The resurrection proved that Jesus is the Messiah foretold by the Jewish prophets. David had prophesied that body of the Messiah would decay or be buried in a tomb.

    Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay (Acts 2:31).
    The world has had many would-be messiahs. Jesus is the only one who has risen from the dead. The resurrection confirmed that he is the saviour of the world.

  5. The resurrection was writing on the wall for human political powers. The resurrection proved that Jesus was Lord of all the earth.

    God has made this Jesus… both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:26).
    If Jesus is Lord, the Caesar is not. If Jesus is Lord, Obama is not. When Jesus was raised from the dead, God established him as the true king of earth. Human empires and powers that do not surrender to him will be swept eventually be swept away.

    The resurrection enthroned Jesus as King of Kings. All human principalities and powers will eventually have to surrender their authority to him. That should really have happened sooner.

  6. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he made this declaration.

    All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matt 28:18).
    This was after the resurrection, but before the ascension. All authority in heaven and earth had been given to Jesus. This was the consequence of the resurrection. Jesus had promised that the Kingdom of God was close. He had called for people to get ready for its coming. The resurrection marked the coming of the Kingdom of God, because the reward for his life and death struggle with the devil was authority over all the earth. The resurrection enthroned Jesus as King of Kings and brought in the Kingdom of God.

  7. The resurrection made it possible for Jesus to ascend into heaven and sit down at the right hand of God. His ascension was the final working out of his resurrection in fulfilment of Daniel's vision.

    In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Dan 7:13-14).
    The dominion that had been given to Adam and Eve, but was lost by them was restored to Jesus. Because he is at the right hand of the father, it can never be taken away, so his kingdom can never be destroyed. The kingdom established on the day of the resurrection can never pass away.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ransom

Redeem seems to be used in two senses in the scriptures. One where the redeemer pays a ransom to the kidnapper to set the enslaved person free. The second where the redeemer uses superior force to set the captive free. The Exodus was the second type. No ransom was paid to Pharaoh (except the deaths of firstborn and his army, but he paid that not the redeemer).

If Jesus death was a ransom, then the redemption must be the second type, where a ransom was paid to the kidnapper. God was the redeemer not the kidnapper/enslaver.

Christus Victor and ransom are not the same. Christus Victor would be a rescue like the exodus, where the enslaved people are rescued by superior force and no ransom is based.

Mark says that Jesus was a ransom, so the atonement is more like the second type of rescue where a ransom was paid. God paid the ransom by offering Jesus. The ransom was paid to the spiritual powers of evil who had enslaved humans at the fall. They used to the requirements of the law to demand death for sin. Paying the ransom robbed them of their power, so by being a ransom Christ ended up being victorious (Christus Victor).

Jesus was death was a punishment, but not one demanded by God. God had given Israel his law to enable them to live in peace in a new land. His approach to the penalties of the law was gracious. However, the spiritual powers of evil used the law against God to demand that the penalties specified by the law be paid in full. They said it would not be just, if humans were let off scot-free, and they were not. The accuser was able to indict humans for breaking the law, so he demanded the penalty specified by the law, which was death. So Jesus died in our place, as punishment demanded by the accuser, not one demanded by God.

God was happy to forgive, because he is gracious. But the spiritual powers of evil who love death and destruction demand that the full penalty be paid.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Caring for the Poor

The New Testament teaches Christians to care for the poor. People who understand this requirement have been drawn to support governments that introduce welfare programs. This approach to poverty has been a huge mistake.

Government welfare programs have to be operated by a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies have to be rule-driven organisations to ensure that funding is controlled. The bureaucrats who administer welfare programs have to apply the rules in an even-handed way. These rules leave no room for love, and very little scope for flexibility to deal with individual circumstances.

When it is your job to care for the poor, it is almost impossible not to become hard and harsh with people who have continually messed up. What love the bureaucrat had when they started tends to get overwhelmed and numbed by the hardship and suffering they deal with.

Without love, welfare is demeaning. Recipients lose their faith and self-respect. The consequence is that many recipients of government welfare get locked into poverty.

Handing responsibility for caring for the poor to the state has been a huge mistake by the Church. The justification was that the problem was too big for the church, so they wanted to marshal the greater resources of the state to the task. This is an illusion, because the state has made the problem worse, so even more resources are needed.

Christians should be more effective in dealing with poor than governments. Love is essential for the task, and we should be experts on love. The Holy Spirit gives Christians the strength to keep on loving in the face of persistent hardship and despair.

Escape from poverty often needs a change of heart and mind. The Holy Spirit is an expert on changes of heart, so people who can bring him to the task have a huge advantage.

Taking care of the problem of poverty would be a huge responsibility, but a great opportunity for the gospel. It would need massive resources, but Christians own a huge amount of unrighteous wealth that could be used for this challenge.

This article is not a justification for voting against welfare programs. You can’t replace something with nothing. Taking state welfare away before we have established something better would be cruel.

Rather if Christians got serous about caring for their neighbours who are poor (1 John 3:16-17) and once that was done, moving into poor neighbourhoods where there are no Christians, poverty would gradually disappear.

The need for state welfare programs would shrink and they would gradually disappear. Welfare budgets could be cut, because they would not be needed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Trade Wars

Donald Trump is angry about the US trade deficit. He blames manufacturing nations like China and Japan for ripping off America, so he is imposing tariffs on Chinese imports into the US to punish them.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump does not understand the economics of international trade, so he is attacking a symptom, rather than dealing with problem.

There are several reasons why the US has been running a trade deficit for many years.

  • The United States is a high-income country, (although many Americans are not feeling it.). High-income countries find it hard to compete with manufacturing from low-income countries. Multi-national countries tend to move their production to places in the world where educated labour is cheap. High-income countries have to concentrate on the highly-technical and capital-intensive manufacturing where they have an advantage. The United States has done well in this area, but it needs to do better because many blue-collar workers in the US are still directly competing with cheap labour in Asia.

  • Low oil prices and container have made the shipping of manufactured goods from Asia to the United States economic an economic activity.

  • The trade balance is only one part of the Balance of Payments, and they all interact with each other. The United States trade balance is the natural corollary to a surplus on the capital account.

  • The US dollar is the strongest currency in the world. Since the demise of the Bretton Woods system, many nations in the world hold their international reserves in US dollars. They do this by purchasing US dollar assets, mostly treasury bonds. This inflow of funds has given the US a surplus on its capital account, which has to be balanced by a deficit on its current account. The trade deficit is the direct consequence of the US dollar role as a reserve currency.

    The big benefit of this role is that the US has been able to import cheap manufactured goods without paying for them. The US has been able to engage in numerous overseas wars without paying the full cost. (Wars affect the Balance of Payments in the same way as imports because stuff needs to be purchased overseas. The difference is that they are blown up, rather than carried into the US). Wars and imports have been paid for with bits of paper (mostly US treasury bonds).

    Buying things with bits of paper is good if you can get away with it. Donald Trump does not like the Chinese buying US treasury bonds, however if he wants to stop that practice, the US will have to start paying for all its imports and wars.

  • One reason why the US dollar is popular as a reserve currency is that oil is mostly traded in US dollars. Following a spike in oil prices in 1974 the United States persuaded Saudi Arabia to only sell oil for dollars. The U.S. agreed to buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plough billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending. This dollar hegemony worked well for the US, so it has attacked countries like Libya that tried to sell oil for currencies other than the US Dollar. The petrodollar is becoming less important as US dependence on Middle East oil. However, if the US lets it go, the need for US dollar reserves would decline and the trade balance would improve, but US economic hegemony would weaken. I am not sure that this is what Donald Trump wants.

  • The United States congress has consistently approved budgets that do not balance for many years. The ongoing budget deficits have to be paid for by issuing treasury bonds. If these were only sold within the United States, interest rates would have to rise significantly. No one wants that, so many of the treasury bonds are sold outside the United States with the Chinese being the main buyer. If the US balanced its budgets, the supply of treasury bonds would shrink dramatically, and the US surplus on its capital account would shrink too. This would have a positive effect on the trade deficit, but no US politician is interested in that solution.

The US trade deficit is mostly the result of decisions made within the US that have produced a surplus on the capital account. Without getting rid of that surplus, the trade deficit is likely to remain, whether or not Donald Trump engages in a trade war.

The Chinese may have manipulated their currency to make sure that they get their share of the US trade deficit. This does not harm the US. They benefit from the cheap televisions and refrigerators. Rather it harms other manufacturing/exporting countries (especially in Asia) that get squeezed out of the US market.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Sabbath

After God rescued his people from Egypt, he told them what he expected of them.

The main thing that he told them to do so was to do nothing for a day.

Not just a day. He told them to take a day off every week for the rest of their lives.

That is grace.

Yet many Christians manage to turn this into hard work.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

House Church

I sense that the house church movement in New Zealand has peaked. My experience is that most house churches were started by people frustrated with existing churches. They knew what they did not like, but they did not have a clear vision of what God wanted to establish. Many brought baggage with them.

Most still wanted to receive the “services” that they thought traditional churches were not providing adequately.: good teaching, good worship, etc. The list is quite long. Church leaders were soon exhausted trying to provide these services. Members remained frustrated because the level of service did not match their expectations.

The people who joined House Churches had not been reaching out to the lost people of the world from their traditional churches, so they did not do any different when they got into a house church. Consequentially, house churches had very little success in sharing the gospel.
A house church that does not have new believers coming in gets very self-centred. New believers are often disruptive in a good way. Existing members grow by putting their energies into discipling and teaching them. Without this challenge, they get bored and grumpy. Their house church becomes quite inward looking.

I don’t think many people in New Zealand caught the vision I shared in Being Church Where We Live. It has been more popular overseas.
I am not despondent. I still think that the vision I shared is the best way for followers of Jesus to support each other through a season of persecution or economic shaking. I still think it is the only way the Church as a whole could absorb a massive number of people coming to faith in Jesus, if we had revival in New Zealand.

I am not sure which of these two possibilities is most likely.

Friday, March 23, 2018

North Korea

Prophetic Christians are declaring the people of North Korea are going to come to faith in Jesus in massive numbers. Many other are praying that this will happen.

This seems a bit naïve. Why would the people of North Korea turn to Christianity when a Christian nation is threatening to destroy them? When a Christian leader is threatening to nuke them if they don’t submit to him.

Many Koreans remember how the American bombers wrecked their cities and land, killing thousands of civilians in 1952. They fear it will happen again.

In this context, military threats are not the best method of pre-evangelism.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Words Change

Words are strange. Over time their meaning can change. Sometimes a good word can have stopped being used. The word “household” is an example. It is still used by statisticians, but in a very narrow way, as all the people living a dwelling (sharing meals together). They conduct household surveys and publish so-called household statistics. Most users would prefer family statistics, but family are a fluid concept and hard to measure, especially if members of a family live in different dwellings.

Despite this technical usage, the word household has gone out of normal usage, probably because we no longer have households with servants or extended family members in them. People talk about family, ie Mum (Dad) and children. In New Zealand, we have the Maori word “whanau” for the wider extended family. People speak of their “whanau”, but never talk about their household. Marketers used to address junk mail to “The Householder”, but they have stopped doing that because they realised the word is no longer has any meaning here.

I am not sure what Christians think when they read about the Household of God in the Ephesians, if they have not had teaching about the nature of ancient households.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph 2:17).
At least with the word “kingdom”, people have a residual idea from nursery stories and television shows like “Game of Thrones”.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tithing (8) Religious Leaders

Malachi does not advocate tithing to support religious leaders. He actually condemned the actions and teaching of the priests before he spoke to the rest of the people.

And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honour my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honour me (Malachi 2:1-2).
God was unhappy with the religious leaders. They were not honouring him, so they lost his blessing. He did not want more wealth going to them.

Preachers who use Malachi to advocate tithing should read all his message. Malachi is blunt about those who twist God’s word.

For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble (Malachi 2:7-8).
The tithing teaching twists God’s way from faith and grace into doing good works to earn his favour. The tithing teachers claim that they have been blessed with prosperity because they have tithed. They say that those who are struggling financially are suffering because they have not tithed. This turns prosperity into a reward for doing good works.

God is gracious. His way is always:

Receive Do
He blesses us and expects us to serve him as an expression of his gratitude. Jesus died for us, while we were his enemies. In response to the gift of salvation, we serve him. This was the message of the gospel. It was also true in the Old Testament. He rescued his people from Egypt and blessed them with freedom before he gave the law describing how they should live as redeemed people.

Religions are always the other way around:

Do Receive
People who do what the religion requires might receive a blessing.

The Old Testament teaching on tithing was:

Receive Do
When you have received God’s blessing, take some of it and enjoy a celebration. Bless others by sharing with them.

The modern teaching on tithing is the other way around.

Do Receive
Do something first. Give a tithe to the church, and then you will receive the blessing of prosperity. If you don’t do, you will not receive.

Malachi would say that those who teach this way have failed to “preserve knowledge” for those “seeking instruction” and “caused many to stumble” (Malachi 2:7-8).

This full series is available on Kingdom Watcher at Tithing