Thursday, January 14, 2021

Ministry of Intercession

I am beginning to wonder if we have got the ministry of the intercessor right. In the last century, thousands of Christians have taken up this role (maybe millions), but I am not sure that we have seen the return on the effort that we would expect.

My problem is that this ministry does not exist in the New Testament. There was plenty of prayer and intercession, but no one who devoted themselves full-time to this role. The only full-time intercessor in the New Testament is Jesus following the ascension. He stands beside the Father interceding for us (Heb 7:25).

The people described in the New Testament were active in prayer and intercession, but it was part of their broader calling. Jesus often withdrew to pray. He did this to refresh his spirit and to seek his father’s will so he would know what he should do during his encounters with people in the busy days that would follow. His times of deep intercession were balanced by periods of intense activity healing the sick, casting out demons, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.

Judging by Paul’s letters, he also engaged in intense intercession (Eph 1:15-23; 3:16-21) but that was only a small part of his ministry. He was intensely involved in apostolic activity, preaching the gospel, discipling new believers, training leaders, writing letters. His intercession sustained his activities, rather than being the focus of his ministry.

I am coming to believe that intercession that is not balanced with active ministry can lose its way. The massive number of people who felt called to intercession and the huge increase in intercession has not brought the fruit that would have been expected if God was fully in it. Despite the highly-dedicated efforts of the intercessors, the church in the West has mostly gone downhill over the last century.

I suspect that one reason for this lack of effectiveness is the failure of intercessors to understand how authority functions, and their lack of it. The problem is that God has given all people freedom, so he will not force people to things that they don’t want to do. He will send angels and the Holy Spirit to put thoughts in their minds and he can constrain evil spirits that are manipulating them, but he will not force them to do what they do not want to do, no matter how much intercessors and are praying that they will.

The reality is that it is very difficult to bring real change in human behaviour from a prayer closet. Real personal change comes through encounters with other people demonstrating love and speaking the truth.

Political leaders have to be stubborn people, so it is almost impossible to change their behaviour by prayer alone, because God cannot force them to do things that they do not want to do. In a democracy, real political change can only come if many people modify their behaviour, so the prayer closet becomes even less effective, if not supported by other activity.

Real changes in behaviour towards God’s way will often come through:

Changing a community needs apostolic people leaving their homes and coming to live in the midst of the people they are interceding for so that they can see the life that is being offered.

Our intercession is far more effective in the lives of people who have submitted to our authority, because they are family members, or they have recognised the value of our gifts and calling. People who are actively exercising their evangelistic, pastoral, prophetic or apostolic gifts/calling will be more effective in intercession, than people who remain hidden in their prayer closet, because people have submitted to them have given real authority to their intercession for them.

The ministry of intercessor might be a refuge for introverts, but if they remain in their prayer closet away from people, their authority will be limited and the effectiveness of their prayers constrained.

Monday, January 11, 2021

America Prophetic Failure (3)

I can see five serious consequence of the failure of the prophecies that Donald Trump would win a second term as president of the United States.

  • Destruction of faith. People who believed that God said that Donald Trump would win the election will have had their faith in God shaken. Some of those who have been most strident in Trump’s support will be overwhelmed by disappointment and give up on God.

  • A large portion of the population will continue to be hostile to the “elected president” (Some will never trust an election again). Presidential power relies on widespread political support of the people to be effective (and trust in the election process). A large group who hate the president and his democratic party supporters will become an angry and divisive force in the nation. Their anger will be exacerbated by the way the president is being treated by the media and elected leaders. These people are not going to go away, even if Trump retires into obscurity. They will continue to be disgruntled and easily agitated because they believe God is on their side.

  • The widespread belief that the election was stolen will prevent the prophetic movement from being honest about their prophecies and admit they were wrong. They will claim that their prophecies were correct, but the spiritual powers of evil resisted them and prevented them from being fulfilled. Their refusal to admit their mistakes will severely undermine the credibility of the prophetic movement. Some Christians will never trust them again.

  • Many prophets will say that Trump lost the election because the Church did not pray hard enough (see prophetic blind spots). Dumping a guilt trip on the people to protect the reputation of the prophets is dangerous. Many Christians will already be struggling under disappointment. This underserved guilt will be the last nail in the coffin for some.

  • I presume that some church congregations will be badly split on this issue, which will weaken the church. Shepherds will need great wisdom.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

American Prophetic Failure (2) Political Faith

A big problem for the failure of the prophetic movement in the US is fascination with political power.

The American prophets failed to understand what a president can and can’t do. Some prophets supporting Donald Trump suggested that God would use him to transform the nation and release a revival that would sweep the world. They would say that their full trust was in God, but believed that if Trump was not elected for a second term, the nation would go to the dogs. Faith in political power is a serious blind spot for prophetic people

Unfortunately, a US president does not have that kind of power. In a federal system with a strict balance of power, between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, there are significant limits on what a president can achieve. Change is difficult to bring about without getting support from congress and state governments. So the idea that one man could transform the nation, even if he was a Cyrus, was unrealistic. The idea that a man who was, at best, a baby Christian, and at worst, was worldly and unteachable narcissist could advance the Kingdom of God was a bit naïve.

Without an understanding of the futility of political power, prophetic involvement in the political system will be on shaking ground. Hopes of gaining political influence is a dangerous temptation for God's people. Fascination with political power can prevent Christians from seeing what God is trying to do. They tend to get obsessed with getting the right people into power, because they fall for the deception that the next election is the most important in their nation’s history, which is a political lie, designed to enhance political power.

For many American Christians, political power has become an idol. God will not use and idol to advance his purposes. Faith in political power leads them to focus on changing the political leaders of the nation in the false hope that this will bring the Kingdom of God closer. Unfortunately, most efforts to bring political change usually lead to disappointment.

God does not work through political power. His Kingdom cannot be established by political power. Jesus never suggested that his kingdom could be advanced if the centurion who demonstrated faith when his servant was sick was appointed governor in Pilate’s place. He focussed on advancing his own kingdom.

The accumulation of political power amplifies the authority of government-spirits in the spiritual realm. This means that political power is actually an obstacle to God achieving his purposes. He prefers to work through thousands and thousands of small kingdom communities in local neighbourhoods, because that stretches the resources of the spiritual powers of evil to thin to be effective.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

American Prophetic Failure (1)

There are two major problems with the prophetic claims that God would intervene, despite the outcome of the election, to install Donald Trump as president for a second term.

The first problem is that American prophets have failed to understand what God can and can’t do. God is all-powerful, but when he created the earth, and humans in his image, he limited his sovereignty by giving them freedom. This means that he cannot make people do what they don’t want to do. God can constrain the evil spirits that harass people, and he can put thoughts into their minds to persuade them, but he cannot force them to act against their will.

Accomplishing his will is not as easy for God as many Christians assume. Even the people who have promised to serve him frequently choose to do their own thing and fail to obey him. More so, people who hate him or cannot trust him. If they know his will, they are quite likely to refuse to do it. God has the power to get his will done, but he has chosen not to use it because he wants humans to be free. God does accomplish his purposes, but it takes time. The Holy Spirit works out his plans by removing obstacles and putting the right people in place ready for when he wants to bring change. The process is often slowed because some of the people that he has called refuse to get on board.

It took thousands of years for him to get everything lined up so that it would be safe to send Jesus to earth, so it will take many years before he is able to achieve the great harvest of the earth that has been promised and establish the fulness of his Kingdom. God will eventually achieve his purposes, but he does it by working patiently and wisely through humans to achieve his objectives.

Some prophets have been saying that the outcome of the election is in God’s hand, not the hands of men. They have assumed that God can flip the election any way that the chooses. This is not true. God has given authority on earth to humans, so he cannot enforce changes that they do not want.

Adopting democracy places even greater limitation on what God can do.

In a monarchy, removing a king and replacing him with another is much easier. God can cause a king to become sick and die (Acts 12:23), or to be killed in a battle (1 Kings 22:34-35). This opens the way for a replacement king to be installed (the Holy Spirit can influence the process of appointment).

In contrast, democracy is a system designed to give humans control over who rules them. The Holy Spirit can make suggestions to people about how they should vote, but he cannot force them to vote for the person he wants to rule.

The result of an election will be determined by the people and not by God. He cannot destroy votes or create extra ones. He might be able to cause some voting papers to be lost, but that is not how he usually works. The outcome of an election will usually be determined by voters.

Teaching that God determines the outcome of an election is misleading. The only way to change to really change the rulers in a democracy is to preach the gospel effectively so that people’s hearts are changed, enabling them to be able to listen to the Spirit and vote according to his will.

God cannot just snap his fingers and miraculously flip the result of an election. If it were that easy to get his will done, the entire world would have come to faith in Jesus by now. That has not happened. Not because it is not God’s will, but because humans have used the freedom that he gave them to reject his will.

Changing the outcome of an election is not that easy for God, especially if some of the population hate him, and many who say that they love him do not know how to hear the voice of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has to persuade thousands of people who don’t know how to hear his voice to change the way that they will vote. People are usually stubborn about their political loyalties, so it would not be easy for him to persuade them to change their vote.

Many prophetic people have been saying that God determines the outcome of the election, not man. In a democratic system that is simply not true. The democratic process is actually set up in a way that makes it difficult for the Holy Spirit to have influence. It enables humans to choose their leader, and God will not force them to change their choices. Under democracy (rule of the people), humans determine the outcome of elections.

Some American prophets have claimed that God would intervene miraculously to install Donald Trump as president. By implying that God could do this if they prayed enough, the prophets have created a false hope that will lead to disappointment.

The prophets who declared that America would be swept by a red wave and that Donald Trump would get a second term as president are wrong because they were promising that God was not in a position to deliver, even if he wanted to (I am not certain that he cares about the outcome of the election as much as the American prophets do, but that is a story for another day). If they had said that God wanted Donald Trump to have a second term, this would have been better, because the outcome would be conditional on how people responded.

Unfortunately, numerous prophets went further than that and declared that his second term was certain. Their certainty gave people a false hope that has now produced massive disappointment, and probably loss of faith. Their failure to teach people what God can and cannot do is a serious mistake because it will undermine the faith of many Christians. Faith based on a false understanding of how God operates is bound to be disappointed. Serious disappointment in God will cause many people to turn away from him. That is sad because prophets are supposed to teach people how to deal with the troubles of life.

Prophets should be careful about confusing God’s desires with his intentions. They must not confuse what he wants to happen, with what will happen. They must be careful about declaring that outcomes which are conditional are certain. In a world where humans are free, very few events on earth are certain.

Modern prophets sometimes speak as if God has meticulous control over everything that happens on earth. That is a false doctrine. God has made humans free. This means that humans decide much of what happens on earth, not God.

The big mistake of the American prophets in this season was not hearing wrongly about the outcome of the election, although that was a serious mistake. Their big mistake was declaring the outcome was certain, despite the reality that God was not free to deliver it because he is unwilling to force humans to do things against their will.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Wrong Stuggle

While Christians are really stirred up about which of the two sleazy, corrupt and geriatric candidates gets to be president of the United States, they missed a far more important reality. The government-spirits (principalities and powers in the spiritual realms) that tightened their control over the nation over the last four years will maintain their stronghold on the nation for the next four. The powerful spirits of war, violence and power will continue to determine the fate of the nation, regardless of who is president, and a spirit of lies has dug in with them.

Era of Justice

I heard a prophetic person say that America is going into a new era of justice. The unspoken implication is that God will establish justice by giving Donald Trump another term as president.

When I heard this word that God is bringing justice to America, I thought of Amos 5:18-20 and the Jewish people who were longing for the Day of the Lord.

Woe to you who long
for the day of the LORD!
Why do you long for the day of the LORD?
That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
They assumed that God would rescue them from their troubles, because they were his special people. Unfortunately, the day of the Lord would turn out to be a terrible day that would bring even greater trouble for them. More is expected, from those who have been given more.

The American Christians longing for an era of justice don’t realise what they are asking for. They seem to assume that an era of justice would mean another term for Donald Trump with two terms for Mike Pence to follow and a return to the glory days when America ruled the world and the church ruled the nation.

They obviously do not know the Sermon on the Mount, or Mary’s prophecy, which explain that God’s justice is different what we often expect.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:51-53).

I suspect that an era of justice could be a terrible time for a nation that:

  • has used its military power to wreck nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen.
  • killed thousands of innocent civilians with its bombs, missiles and drones.
  • maintained alliances with dictators and corrupt rulers who are oppressing their people.
  • flooded the world with movies and videos that celebrate violence and sexual perversion.
  • used political and military power to obtain wealth.
  • has an education and entertainment industries that have spread atheism round the world.
  • that has frittered away more revivals than any nation in history.
If I lived in America, I would not be seeking an era of justice for my nation, I would be desperately crying for an era of mercy. But maybe the American prophets intuitively know, without understanding it, that the time for mercy has passed.

Prophets should be careful what they ask for.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

God's Sovereignty

Roger E Olson wrote,

I do not believe that God always gets his way or that everything that happens is according to a divine plan. Did God “plan” the fall of humanity into sin with all of its consequences? I think not. Did God permit it? I think so. Did God have a plan for it, should it happen? Yes. Is God in control of everything? No. Could God control everything? Yes. Is God sovereign? Yes. Does God’s sovereignty mean meticulous providence? No. Does God know the future comprehensively, infallibly, absolutely? I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. God is omnipotent and omniresourceful and perfectly wise. He can establish his kingdom no matter what creatures do; we cannot thwart God’s final, perfect plan for the end of all things.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Prophetic Mistakes

Prophets who warn about bad things coming are often wrong, because God is merciful and holds back the evil that the spiritual powers of evil want to inflict. Sometimes the people repent, which prevents the spiritual powers of evil from acting. This happened to Jonah in Nineveh.

Prophets who prophesy a good future are more likely to be wrong, because all future blessings are conditional. Humans are fickle, so God’s people often fail to grasp the opportunities that God has offered to them. Blessings often do not come, because we make choices that close them down.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Humility and Revival

I heard an American prophetic leader say that God needs a “strong America” to bring the billion-person harvest that they have been prophesying. This is not true. God could still accomplish his purposes even if America collapsed and disappeared.

We should remember that the greatest revival that has ever occurred in the world through history (many millions choosing to follow Jesus) took place in China:

  • under a communist government
  • without freedom to worship
  • without funding from American Christians
  • without the books of big-name evangelical leaders
  • without pastors trained in the popular bible colleges and seminaries.
  • without American missionaries
  • without the protection of the US military.
God does not need “his man” as political leader to bring revival. Having his people in political power might actually be an obstacle to revival.

God does not need a strong America. It would probably be an obstacle to his purposes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Paul in Jerusalem

I have huge respect for the apostle Paul, but I suspect that he lost the plot when confronted by James during his visit to Jerusalem bearing a gift from the Gentile churches (Acts 21). The churches he had planted were coming under intense pressure from Judaizers, who were trying to force Gentile Christians to get circumcised and eat separately from non-Christians.

According to the letter to Galatians, James seems to have been encouraging them (Gal 2:12-13). These Jewish Christians seemed to be defying the agreement made at Antioch (Acts 15), which was not a good agreement anyway. They were going out to all the churches that Paul had planted and trying to bring them back under their way of thinking.

Paul went to Jerusalem in one last desperate attempt to sort out the problem, before he set out on another mission in the direction of Spain. He was bringing a generous gift that was his fulfilment of the agreement he had made with Peter and James during the meeting at Antioch, an agreement that James was not really honouring.

Paul was under intense pressure. He feared for the future of the Gentile mission to which he had devoted his life. The intensity of his feeling is evident in his letters to Galatians and the Philippians. Paul realised that the greatest growth of the gospel would come through the Gentile church, so he didn't want anything to prevent it. His fears were exacerbated by the prophecies he had received on his way warning that he would get a negative reaction in Jerusalem.

I sense that James set a bit of a trap for Paul when he suggested that he pay for the four men taking Nazarite vows. There are hints that the Church in Jerusalem had refused to accept the generous financial gift that Paul brought because they considered it was contaminated by coming from Gentile Christians. As a compromise, James suggested that Paul use some of it to support the four men taking a Nazarite, presumably as a way of legitimising the gift.

Paul had reported the wonderful works that God had done amongst the gentiles, but James seemed to have fallen foul of the fear of men because he claimed that the Jewish Christians were upset by Paul and seemed to be worried that they would stir up trouble. A riot would make life difficult for the apostles who had chosen to stay in Jerusalem, despite Jesus' command to go.

Many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs (Acts 19:20-21).
What James claimed they were saying was only half true. Paul had not turned away from Moses, but he did teach that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised and that they did not need to comply with Jewish customs, such as eating separately from Gentiles.

James already knew what Paul was teaching, and he knew that God was blessing it. James had approved the gospel that Paul preached on a couple of occasions (Gal 1:18-19; 15:13-19), so instead of hitting up Paul, he should have been speaking to the Judaizing group and correcting their misunderstanding of the gospel. James should have been explaining that Gentiles did not need to get circumcised and did not need to comply with Jewish food customs. Instead, he had allowed this problem to fester amongst the Jewish Christians. Then when Paul arrived, he expected him to solve the problem that this created.

Asking Paul to fund the four men taking a Nazarite vow only added to the confusion about the Torah. Jesus had explained that swearing vows was unnecessary for those who had chosen to follow him and receive the gift of the Spirit (Matt 5:34-37), so taking a Nazarite vow was pointless. Once Jesus had died on the cross, the temple sacrifices had become redundant, so the sacrifices Paul was paying for had no value and were a waste of the gift given to support the church in Jerusalem. James was requiring Paul to support Jewish practices from the Torah that had been fulfilled by Jesus and were no longer mandatory for his followers.

Getting Paul to be involved in redundant Torah practices did not help the situation because it obscured Paul's position on the law when it really needed to be clarified. The Jewish Christians were not fooled, so when Paul went into the temple, they stirred up and the entire city (Acts 21:27,30) leading to Paul's arrest. He spent several years in prison and was eventually transferred to Rome. This arrest constrained his ministry, and he never got to Spain. Acts 28:17-30 puts a good spin on it, but Paul never got back into real apostolic ministry.

I am not sure why Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem at all. He obviously wanted to make peace with the mother church, but the prophets he met on the way had warned that he would fail.

Following James advice brought Paul's ministry to a screaming halt. I am not sure if this was what the Holy Spirit wanted. I don't know why Paul agreed to participate in Jewish customs that he did not approve. It just increased the confusion about the relationship between the Torah and the gospel. I suspect that he was already feeling intense pressure from the Judaizers who were disrupting his work in Europe. Due to this pressure, he seems to have been intimidated by James into doing something foolish. I do not judge him for that, because we have all made that mistake, but in Paul's case, the cost was great. It seems to be a great waste of an amazing talent.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Covid Conspiracy

A correspondent sent me the following question.

Is this is a pandemic, or is it a conspiracy?
My thinking is that it is probably neither.

The basic facts are fairly well understood. There is no doubt that a new virus has emerged. Its origin is uncertain. Most likely it crossed over from animals, but there is a small probability that it was released deliberately by American or Chinese germ warfare experts to see how effective it would be. It is out now, so the origin does not matter much.

The nature of the disease is now fairly clear. It is very infectious for people in close proximity to infected people. The symptoms vary considerably. Most people have no symptoms at all. Many have very mild symptoms. A few (especially the elderly and those with other pre-existing conditions) get really nasty respiratory failure and related symptoms. Some of which last for a long time. For a few, it is fatal.

The number who will die is still uncertain, because it depends on how the virus spreads and how long it continues to be virulent. Numbers of deaths are still relatively low, but it is impossible to know what the rate would be if the virus had been allowed to spread like the 1919 influenza. The early estimates of epidemiologists were greatly overstated, I presume that they enjoyed being in the limelight. Governments assumed that they knew more than they knew.

The medical management of the disease has improved significantly. Good hospital care and appropriate drugs seem to be reducing the death rate.

The word “pandemic” is not very helpful. It has an administrative meaning that is determined by the WHO. When WHO declares a pandemic, various insurance outcomes follow, and clauses in agreements that have been made with the big drug companies kick in. Since big monies are involved, WHO has to have clear rules about what is a pandemic. The word pandemic has a fairly well-proscribed meaning in the world of insurance and drug company contracts, but it does not mean much for ordinary people.

The big issue is the government response to the virus. The difference between this situation and earlier events like the 1919 influenza and polio epidemic that affected children when I was growing up, people have a huge intolerance of death. The decline of faith has resulted in a growing fear of death. Whereas during World War 1, death had become normal, people now react very negatively to any unnecessary death. This puts big pressures on governments, who have promised to solve all life’s problems.

While they could get away with doing nothing about the 1919 flu, and actually made it worse by shifting troops around the world at the end of the war, modern governments are expected to prevent the spread and stop deaths from coronavirus. That is the reality, not a conspiracy. Although most governments are quite happy to seize opportunities to expand their power. That is not a surprise, because they have always done that.

Their big problem is uncertainty, as it is not clear what governments should do to stop the spread of the virus. Obviously, isolating people who are infectious from those who are vulnerable is the best way. How far governments can go in doing that depends on the extent to which their population will accept government controls. In a few countries, there is more resistance to government controls.

The problem is that the scientific evidence about what will prevent the spread of the virus is quite weak. For example, it is actually very hard to design (almost impossible) a study that would demonstrate clearly whether masks are effective for stopping the spread of the virus or not. You need two groups, one without masks, and the other with masks, but with both groups having an equal probability of contacting the virus. The latter condition is almost impossible to achieve in a real situation where people go about their lives in different ways, and the possibility of making contact with people is uncertain. The evidence for many other government actions is weak too, for similar reasons. We should be more realistic about what science can and can’t do.

Most governments take a cautious approach and try to do everything they think will help. This works well for politicians. No modern politician wants to be accused of doing nothing. But being accused of doing nothing, when there was something that could be done, plays badly in the next election. Being blamed for unnecessary deaths is not a vote winner. So politicians always play safe and do what can be done, knowing that if it does not work, they can always blame the bureaucrats and scientist who claimed it would work. Politicians are biased for action.

Politicians are all hoping that a vaccine will deal to the virus before the economic cost gets too great. The long-term effectiveness of vaccines is still uncertain. Whether, governments will make the vaccine compulsory will depend on attitudes in their country, but I suspect that the fear of death has become so great, that most people will have it voluntarily if the testing has been reasonably robust.

The problem with most conspiracy theories is that they are beyond the capabilities of the proposed perpetrator. In my experience, most governments struggle to do what they have promised, because their incompetence gets in the way. They will seize more power whenever the opportunity arises, but they are far less competent than the conspiracy theories assume.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Northern Motorway

Over the last few years, a motorway north out of Christchurch has been under construction. Today the new motorway was open for walkers and cyclists. The photos do not show it, but thousands of people took advantage of this opportunity.

I rode along most of its length, 9 kilometres out and 9 kilometres back. A steady head wind on the way out and a tail wind on the way back, which is always the best way. The motorway will be fully open on Thursday.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Blind Spots (9) Jesus is Coming Soon

Many prophets grew up with a teaching that Jesus is going to return soon. Some still hold this teaching. This clouds their understanding of what is happening around them.

Christians in almost every age have believed that the second coming was near, but they all proved to be wrong. Modern prophets should be careful that they do not make the same mistake. The second coming of Jesus may not necessarily be as close as many believe.

We should always be ready for the return of Jesus, but assuming that it will occur in our time will often cause us to misunderstand what God is doing in the world. Once the Kingdom of God is established by the Holy Spirit through his church, it may continue for thousands of years. Therefore, the second coming of Jesus might be a very long way away.

A problem with the belief that Jesus is coming soon to establish his kingdom is the corollary belief that Jesus will do with violent power, punishing all those who do not accept his rule. The implication is that the Holy Spirit has efforts by the Holy Spirit to bring the kingdom using the suffering, service and love of the church will not succeed, so Jesus will have to come with his angels to forcibly clean up the mess in the world.

Unfortunately, the belief that Jesus will return and establish his rule using brutal force against all who oppose him reinforces the idea that Christians are justified in using military force to advance his kingdom prior to his coming.

The Jesus-is-coming-soon-blind-spot can prevent prophets from hearing clearly. (More at Times and Seasons).

This the end of my series of blinds spots. On their own, most of these blind spots might not be that serious. The problem is that one leads to another and they tend to reinforce each other. For example, those blinded by a love of war, will find it difficult to be impartial about Israel, because they will be impressed by the ruthlessness and power of the Israel defence forces. Likewise, those who believe that Jesus needs return and establish his rule using angelic force will tend to justify the use of military force to advance his kingdom.

There are probably many more blind spots that those I have discussed. I am not aware of them all, because I am probably affected by some of them without being aware of them.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (8) Israel

A serious blind spot for many modern prophets is their attitude to the modern nation of Israel. God’s promise to bless those who bless Abraham and his descendants has been twisted into a belief that the state of Israel can do no wrong, and that anyone who questions its activities is opposing God. The scriptural teaching on Israel is much more circumspect. It recognises that Israel is often presumptuous and attempts to manipulate the fulfilment of God’s promises. I discuss this issue more thoroughly in Nation of Israel.

Israel is not a Christian nation and most of its leaders are not followers of Jesus. That means that it still functions under the old covenant. Many of the decisions and actions of the Israeli government are contrary to the requirements of their nations covenant with God.

  • Shifting people of their land;
  • Destroying houses;
  • Destroying olive trees;
  • Different laws for different races;
  • Political alliances;
  • Political assassinations;
  • Bombing other nations;
  • Faith in military force.
Actions that break the covenant are denying the people of Israel access to the blessings that it promised. Unfortunately, many Christian prophets assume that Israel can continue in the blessings of their covenant without obedience. They just ignore the clearly-spelt out consequences of disobedience to the covenant.

God will fulfil his purposes for Israel as promised in the covenant, but he will not do it through political manipulation, military weapons and political alliances.

Successive Israeli governments have been emboldened in their actions by the unconditional support of all United States governments. Most US-based prophets have closed their minds to the injustices perpetrated by the Israeli government with their nation’s military, financial and political support. They seem to assume that everything that Israel does has God’s blessing, so they should bless it too. If Israel does bad things, they assume that it is justified.

Worse still, these prophets seem to assume that blind support for Israel will force God to bless the United States. They assume that sins of the United States do not matter to God, because their nation’s unconditional support for Israel has earned God blessing on their nation.

If God is speaking to these prophets about what Israel is doing, they have chosen not to hear. This complicity with injustice and evil creates a blind spot for many prophets.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (7) Love of Military Power

Too many of the people who claim to be prophets are excessively fascinated with military power. The scriptures warn against the dangers of trusting in military power, but they refuse to see it.

The worst manifestation of this blind spot occurred during the period leading up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although it was a disaster for the Iraqi people and the US military personal who were killed, maimed and emotionally crippled, the prophets who supported it have never shown any contrition.

Warmongering prophets and military power often go together. It is often hard to tell which came first. Confidence in military power opens prophets to a warring and violent spirit. The words of a prophet who loves military power are often welcomed by their political leaders. Political leaders are drawn to these prophets because their words feed their desire from more and more power.

The United States seems to have a problem with prophets that love war. The nation has such immense military strength that some prophets get dazzled with it and fall in love with war. This makes them dangerous at this pivotal time for their nation.

This love of military power is a blind spot that prevents many prophets from hearing clearly.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spot (6) Political Power

Faith in political power is a blind spot that trips up many prophets. Fascination with political power can prevent prophets from seeing what God is trying to do. They tend to get obsessed with getting the right people into power, because they fall or the deception that the next election is the most important in their nation’s history, which is a political lie, designed to enhance political power.

If prophets come to believe that the Kingdom of God is established from the top-down, they tend to get infatuated with political power. This leads them to focus on changing the political leaders of the nation in the false hope that this will bring the Kingdom of God closer. Unfortunately, these efforts to bring political change usually lead to disappointment.

During the fifty years that I have been following politics, leaders and parties have come and gone, but elections have bought very little change, except when the situation got desperate and change was forced upon reluctant leaders. The big changes have been brought about by cultural shifts within society. The biggest change within my experience was the social and cultural revolution of the 1960s. Politicians had very little to do with starting it; they could not stop it; so were carried along by it. The same was true of the arrival of the “get rich” phenomena that arrived towards the end of the century. Politicians did not know where it came from and could not stop it, but it had a far-reaching effect on the way we live.

The greatest social and cultural change in my father’s lifetime was the great depression. It gave his generation an entirely different attitude to money and security that forcefully shaped their lives. Politicians did not understand how the depression started, and did not know how to stop it, but society was utterly changed.

The big changes that transform society have very little to do with which party is in power and who is the Prime Minister or President. They are usually left struggling to keep up with changes that have already become inevitable.

A huge religious, cultural and social transformation is currently well underway in the United States, and politicians of all stripes are struggling to come to terms with it. They will find it almost impossible to shape it or turn it back, because they will get distracted by a few irrelevant symptoms, and misunderstand the deeper causes that are driving it. One side will try to ride it, and the other will swim against it, but both will be swamped and swept along by it, because they do not understand the season that they are caught up in.

The main reason that most political efforts fail is that all nations are controlled by government-spirits in the spiritual realms (principalities and powers). An election does not affect their position of power, so when a human government changes, everything carries on the same. Nothing changes, because the same spiritual powers are pulling the strings.

The prophets in the United States should stop fighting about who will be president and start worrying the warring, violent and deceiving government-spirits that have had control of their nation for a long time. Whoever wins the presidential election will further consolidate the power of these well-entrenched spirits. The prophets still need to learn that political power is the greatest obstacle to the Kingdom of God, as it amplifies the power of government-spirits that control the nation, and they are not removed by shouting at them.

The Kingdom of God is not established from the top, so God is not really interested in changing governments, unless there has been a massive change of heart in the people of the nation. The Kingdom of God is established from the bottom and then spreads out through society. The Holy Spirit prefers to work amongst two or threes to change their lives by the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

As more and more people are touched, the kingdom expands outwards. When the culture of the nation has been transformed, one heart at a time, the political leaders will find themselves out of touch and have to either change their minds, or walk away. The government-spirits that control them will find that their power has evaporated.

We live in the age of political power. The power of human governments (and the government-spirits that controlled them) is at greater than at any time in history. However, Jesus is not interested in political power. He refused to use political power to impose his rule on unwilling people, because he knew that his kingdom will come when people respond to the good news of his victory on the cross by freely choosing to love him and serve him in the power of his Spirit.

If they were honest, many Christian prophets would realise that they are sometimes more influenced by the culture of our political age than by the Holy Spirit. The current prophetic confusion has arisen, because they have bought into the lie that God needs a win in the presidential election. Once the shouting is finished and the dust from the election has settled, the prophets will discover it was not worth all the clamour and confusion. They will repent of stirring up a fake political hope and wake up to the truth that, despite their zeal, God did not care who won the election, because the president is mostly irrelevant to the fulfilment of his purposes.

The true prophets will realise that the Kingdom of God comes through the preaching of the gospel in the power of the Spirit. They will hear God calling his people to form Kingdom Communities under the radar of political power in the places where they live. The prophets will get on with the more important task of telling them how God wants this done and encouraging them to pursue the task with zeal and love for each other.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (5) New standard of Righteousness

Many modern prophets have introduced a new standard of righteousness, in which abortion is prioritised above all other sins. Consequently, they support a presidential candidate who has committed adultery because he claimed that he would make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions. These prophets claim that the thousands of abortions being carried out each year is preventing God from blessing the United States. They believe that Christians should use their political power to make abortions illegal, so God will send revival again.

This is not an issue of whether abortion is sinful or not, but about prophets prioritising abortion as the great abomination and making it the sole criterion for deciding political issues. Some used the candidate’s attitude to abortion to determine their vote and ignored all other issues.

The strange thing about the enormous emphasis on abortion in the American political process is that the Bible is totally silent about it. Abortion is not directly mentioned once.

The Old Testament law gives detailed lists of crimes and specifies the correct punishments, but abortion is missing from these lists. Abortion is not mentioned in the ten commandments; a strange silence.

The prophets challenged Israel with detailed descriptions of the sins that were upsetting God, but they never mention women having abortions as the big obstacle. They never suggested that abortions be banned, so God's blessing could return, whereas they did complain about mistreatment of the poor. The prophets criticised people who offered their children as sacrifices, but these practices were significantly different from abortion, because the perpetrator, the age of the victims, the method and the seriousness of the outcome are all different. Babies and young children were tormented by being burned while alive and the sacrifice was directed towards a false god representing demonic powers, which exposed the nation to their spiritual dominance. Worse still, these sacrifices would usually have been managed by men.

John the Baptist called on the people to repent and turn from their sins, but he never mentioned abortion.

Jesus challenged the behaviour of the people listening to his preaching, but he never criticised any of the many women that he met for having had an abortion (although either the woman at the well with six husbands or the well-known sinner who anointed his feet quite likely had). Jesus did not condemn the sins of ordinary people, because he expected them to sin, and he knew his death and resurrection would be a solution to the mess they have made of their lives. He got stuck into the people who claimed to know God’s will, but passed judgment on other people while continuing to sin themselves. Christian prophets should take note that God is far more upset by the sins of the church than by the sins of the world.

Paul gave detailed lists of behaviours that would keep people from entering the Kingdom of God. In 1 Cor 6:9-10, he mentions adulterers, thieves and drunkards, but he does not mention women having abortions, although they would have been common in Corinth. A final list of people who cannot enter the Kingdom of God is given in Revelation 21:8. Cowards, sorcerers and fornicators are listed, but there is no mention of women who have had an abortion.

It is odd for prophets to make abortion the worst possible sin when it is never mentioned in the Bible (not once). If God hated abortion as much as the church does, you would expect Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles to have frequently condemned it. Modern prophets get around this problem by describing it as murder. They speak frequently about “baby murder” even though that expression is not used in the Bible.

The problem with this is that the Bible defines murder quite precisely. We cannot claim that any death at the hand of another human is murder. Killing a thief who has broken into a house during the night is not murder (Exodus 22:2). People who kill soldiers attacking their community are not guilty of murder. God put clear boundaries around what constitutes murder, so we cannot decide a murder has occurred without reference to his standards.

Since abortion is not specifically mentioned in the scriptures, it can only be defined as murder by a deductive process that people can disagree about. If abortion is the sin that offends God more than any other, we would expect him to have specified it more clearly in his definition of murder.

A prophet with a distorted Pharisee view of sin will often get a distorted understanding of what God wants to do in the world. If they put too much emphasis on a particular sin of the people of the world, they can become obsessed with using law to eliminate it, when God is far more concerned about the sins of the church that are hindering the gospel and disrupting the advance of his Kingdom.

Prophets with a confused view of sin get agitated about abortions that send unborn babies straight to the presence of God, but don't seem to care about the millions of civilians who have been killed or had their lives wrecked by America's continuous, but pointless military adventures. They seem to be more concerned about unborn children in their own nation than they are about the suffering and deaths of people living in other nations, which is hypocritical.

The irony is that abortion is the outcome of other sins. Most abortions are the consequence of adultery or casual sexual relationships. I am sure that God is more concerned about the men who engage in careless adulterous or casual sexual activity than he is about the unloved and abandoned women who choose to have an abortion because they believe their situation is desperate. Condemning people who have messed up their lives, or had their lives messed up by irresponsible men, makes Christians seem callous and undermines the witness of the gospel.

The huge pressure to tighten the abortion laws does not deal with the underlying problem caused by the social and sexual revolution. Using law to deal with a social and moral problem is pointless. I am not in favour of abortion, but I understand that trying to ban it is dealing with the symptoms of a deeper underlying problem. It is a sad reflection on the state of our society and communities that so many women do not want to carry their babies, but trying to eliminate the problem by passing laws is just papering over the cracks.

People who think that legally banning abortion would bring the Kingdom of God closer do not really understand the nature of the Kingdom of God. God wants people to freely do his will because they love him, not because they are forced to obey with threats of retribution. Using threats of punishment to prevent abortion is not the way of God’s Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God will only come when parents no longer see pregnancy as a disaster due to their faith in Jesus and hope for the future inspired by the Holy Spirit. It will come when men and women freely stop engaging in irresponsible sexual activity because they love Jesus and walk in the love peace and joy of the Spirit. Abortion will only disappear when every pregnant woman feels loved and supported by a husband and a wider community. The best way to bring about these changes is to preach the gospel of Jesus. This will not be helped by condemning women who have abortions or trying to ban them.

Prophets who have elevated abortion into the great abomination, contrary to the scriptures, will have difficulty hearing God’s voice clearly. God is more concerned about the sins of the Church than about the sins of the world. Sinning is normal for people of the world but the failure of the church to fully obey Jesus weakens the gospel and holds back the advance of his Kingdom. Prophets should be asking if their wrath against abortion has prevented them from the hearing about what really frustrates God?

More here.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (4) Self-Promotion

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the United States seem to believe that they have been called and appointed to be a prophet to their nation. God seems to have far more prophets than he needs. The result is a multitude of voices all speaking at the same time. And they all seem to have a different message.

This cacophony of voices leads to confusion. Every few moments a couple of new videos with a prophetic message for America will drop into my Facebook feed. Even listening to just a few of them will leave the listener confused about what God is saying. A Christian who subscribes to several prophetic bulletin boards will have dozens of prophetic messages dropping into their inbox every day. The diversity of the messages will usually leave the reader confused. The only solution seems to be select a few voices to follow, and ignore the rest, but that is ignoring the problem.

Anyone who listened to the babble of prophetic voices speaking to America would conclude that God is confused, as he seems to be saying different things to different people. However, God not confused and he does not contradict himself. He words are always clear and true. So, the confusion must be coming from the people claiming that they speak for him.

The problem has arisen because social media and electronic communication enables people who believe they have a word from God to distribute it widely. At times the Israelites were left without a prophetic word. That is a terrible situation to be in. Today we have the opposite problem and it is almost as bad. We have such a prophetic babble that the voice of the Holy Spirit is almost impossible to discern.

Something is clearly wrong. Those who are pushing their words believe that they need to be heard, but they are often making it harder for God to be heard. Maybe it is time for those who believe that they are called by God to speak to their nation to remain silent and stop pushing their words forward and wait for God to raise their words up.

I am glad to see the role of the prophet being restored, but at the present time we seem to have toomany prophets speaking at the national level. I suspect that too many people who are called to intercession have tried to become prophets. Maybe people who are called to be prophets to their nation have been pushed up to soon by their friends, or pushed themselves up before they are ready.

Maybe prophets who receive a word from God should be asking they are the ones that he wants them to share it. A humble prophet might pray that the Lord would give their word to someone else, so there are fewer voices speaking.

The nation urgently needs to hear that the voice of the Spirit. Many big-name prophetic voices, who believe that they need to keep speaking and posting to maintain their popularity might need to be silent for a time, so that they do not crowd out what the Holy Spirit is saying.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (3) - Weak Repentance

When prophets focus more on what they want God to do than what God wants his people to do, they become dangerous. Christians everywhere seem to like claiming 2 Chronicles 7:14 as a way to get God to act, but without checking that it is relevant for their context. They seem to be keener on calling on God to change than they are for their church to change.

Intercession is not repentance.

Repentance is a change of thinking that leads to a change of behaviour.

Intercession often seems like a challenge to God to move, without any need for a change of behaviour by those who are praying. Where are the prophetic voices telling the church what behaviour must change? There are plenty of prophets telling the people of the world that they are bad and need to change, or telling politicians that they need to change the laws to make the people of the world good, but where are the voices calling for a deep change of thinking or a radical change in the what that the church operates.

Most prophetic voices seem to be better at declaring what God must do, while suggesting only minor adjustments to the way that the church operates. God’s sovereignty has been changed to God must do what the prophets have declared so that he will not be embarrassed. When humility is used as a weapon to move God, it is no longer humble.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (2) Allegiance to Words

Overstating the importance of their words can be a cause of prophetic pride. This often seeps out through our attitude to intercession. Some people seem to be saying something like,

We have prayed according to what the prophets declared, so God has to do it. We are standing on their words, so God must act.
The statement that God is sovereign means that he will do what he chooses to do. However, it is often made to sound like God has to act because hundreds of prophets have spoken and hundreds of thousands of intercessors and declared their words. What is claimed to be faith often sounds like presumption.

Reading some of the comments by intercessors, there is an assumption that if words of the prophets are not fulfilled, then evil will be victorious in the world. If the wrong president is elected, or if revival does not come, then evil will become uncontrollable and be rampant throughout the world. Everything seems to depend on the prophets being right and the intercessors standing on their words. The assumption that everything depends on the words of the prophets is over-confidence.

Humble prophets would be more uncertain about the accuracy of the words. They would be aware that they are fallible and could be wrong. In a situation where a prophetic word has not been fulfilled as promised by the prophet, I would expect to see more humility. Rather than continuing to push the word, they should wait patiently and leave it to God to fulfil it. Instead, the prophets seem to be pressing their followers to stand firmly on their words. Faith in God has become trust in the words of the prophets. They don't want their words to be questioned, because they believe it allows the powers of evil to undermine them and prevent them from being fulfilled.

Our allegiance is to Jesus. Prophets who are so attached to their words that they cannot admit they were wrong are dangerous.