Friday, June 24, 2016

King of the North

Whichever way the Brexit vote today goes, the European Union will be irretrievably weakened. I dislike empires, so that does not worry me. The problem with the decline of the European Union is that the power of NATO in Europe will be strengthened. The leaders of NATO love war, so their rise in power will be disastrous for Europe (See King of the North).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Love and Submission (3) ERAS

Theological bloggers have recently stirred up a ruckus about the doctrine of the Trinity. A group of theologians led by Wayne Grudem have argued that within the Trinity there is an eternal submission of the Son to the Father. They used to call it Eternal Subordination, but now refer to it as “Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission” (ERAS). Other theologians argue this is a denial of the Nicene Creed.

I am not going to get into the arcane arguments, but simply note that the label ERAS shows that they do not understand authority. The order of the words indicates that they see authority as prior to submission, ie authority requires submission. The Father has authority, so the Son must submit.

If they really understood authority they would put it the label the other way round as ERSA. Relations of Submission and Authority would be quite different. Authority can be obtained in two ways.

  • Authority can be taken, usually taken with threats of force.
  • Authority can be given, by some agreeing to submit to the wisdom of another.
Authority is not something innate in a person’s character. It is not something a person can just have.

If the relationship between the Father and the Son begins with the authority of the Father, it cannot be something innate in the person of the Father. The Father would only have authority over the son, if he could force the Son to obey him. This would be domination of the Son by the Father, or Imposed Authority. The Son would be subordinate to the Father, so not truly divine.

The only way that the Father can have authority over the Son is if the Son freely submits to the Father, creating the authority of the Father. Free submission creates the authority of the person submitted to. This authority is temporary and limited. The person given authority only gets authority over the aspects of life that are submitted to them. If the person giving submitting withdraws their submission, the authority created disappears.

I do not know if there is a relationship of Authority and Submission between the Father and the son. But if there is, it must be a relationship of submission and authority, in which the Son gives authority to the Father by freely submitting to him. The submission of the Son would come first and create the authority of the Father.

The fact that the proponents of ERAS begin with authority suggests that they have a distorted view of authority, in which the one with authority can demand the submission of another. This is domination, not true authority

Monday, June 20, 2016

Love and Submission Again

Love and submission are inseparably entwined.

It is obvious that husband and wives should love each other. This means that they will also submit to each other.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21).
So why does Paul say that wives should submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22) and that wives should submit to their husbands ((Eph 5:25)?

I believe that this presentation reflects their weaknesses, not their strengths.

Many men tend to be so task-focussed that they can easily become so absorbed in their calling that they begin to sacrifice their wives and families to the cause. They need to being reminded to love their wives. They often get puffed up about their wisdom, so they think they know what is best for their wives. The solution is love. Because they are strong, the natural sin of men is to slip into domination. In the worst case this becomes violence. The antidote is love.

Women usually understand much better how relationships work, so they can slip into manipulating a relationship to get what they want. The antidote for manipulation is submission. Women love their children, so they can be inclined to put their needs before God’s work. If they love God and their husbands, they will sometimes need to submit to what God is doing, even if it has a cost for their family.

So husbands and wives should love each other, and that means that one or other will frequently need to submit to the will of the other.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Love and Submission

Love and submission are inseparably entwined. The common teaching that husbands love and wives submit fails to understand that this is no love without submission.

Love is not self-seeking (1 Cor 13:5).
When you love someone, you want what they want, more than what you want. You cannot help yourself. So when you love someone, you find yourself submitting to their will more often than to your own will. If you don’t, you probably do not love as much as you think you do.

Likewise, Christian submission is freely given out of love. Submission that is demanded by someone because they are superior or higher in the hierarchy is not true submission. True submission is a free response to love and wisdom. Demanded submission is domination.

Submitting to someone who loves you is easy, because they want what is good for you. This is why it is easy to submit to Jesus.

Jesus was the wisdom (word) that was there at the beginning and created all things (John 1:1-3). He did not need anyone to tell him what to do.Yet he loved to submit to the will of the Father (John 5:19).

Love and submission are different sides of the same coin.
• You cannot truly love without submitting.
• True submission requires love.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Two Thousand Years

The big question for God’s people is why after 2000 years, the Kingdom of God has made so little progress, compared to the glorious promises of scripture. The second question is why we can have confidence that the Kingdom will become stronger and come to fullness at some point in the future.

I answer these two questions in my book called Kingdom Authority.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sixties Generation

I am part of the sixties generation. I once thought that this could be a pivotal generation. We grew up during the happy days of the 1950s without too many scars or hang-ups. (In hindsight, maybe life was too easy).

The sixities generation was a radical generation, which cast off the restraint of the past and embraced the new with delight. We were a generation that wanted to change the world, and it seemed like it could happen.

In the early 1980s, Dennis Peacocke wrote a prophetic articled the Sleeping Tiger (see Comatose Tiger). He said that the sixties generation had a prophetic calling to advance the Kingdom of God, but they gone to sleep, lulled by prosperity, comfort and consumerism. Dennis suggested that God would revive this generation to return to their calling. The sleeping tiger would arise and be dangerous. It would bring massive change to the world.

Unfortunately, this has not happened. The sleeping tiger kept on sleeping and might even be dying. You cannot tell from looking at it.

Generation X has produced some good leaders, who learnt good stuff from their tiger-generation parents (perhaps while they were asleep), but I expect that we will have to wait for the millennial generation to make the big move that God is calling.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Transformational Events

In a previous post, I suggest that Christians should be looking for the next big transformational events on God’s linear plan. One of these is the collapse of political empires and their military support. The scriptures warn that religious disputes, war, economic crisis and plague produce empire (Rev 6:1-8). They also prophesy a massive collapse of empire, which is so awful that people will be turned off empire forever.

I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother (Haggai 2:21-22).
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:15-16)
If the church is true to its Lord, the rise of empire will lead to persecution (Rev 6:9-11). Perseverance through persecution will refine and prepare the remnant.
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people (Rev 13:10).
Persecution will produce a prepared remnant ready to work with the Holy Spirit to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
The kingdom of the world has becomes
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever (Rev 11:15).

Monday, June 06, 2016

Empire and Remnant

The sin cycle begins with forgetfulness. An important aspect of the sin cycle is the pride/empire cycle.

The normal human response to crisis and disaster is to trust in political power for a solution. This half works, which produces human confidence and pride. Pride pushes for the accumulation of political power, which eventually leads to Empire. Because empires are motivated by pride, they always overstretch and eventually collapse.

The pride/empire cycle makes history seem circular, because empires seem to come and go with monotonous regularity.

God has a different view of history. He sees the collapse of empire as an opportunity for a prepared remnant to fill the gap with a different model of government that does not rely on political power and coercion. Jesus called that new government the kingdom of God.

If the church is true to its Lord, the rise of empire will lead to persecution. Perseverance through persecution will refine and prepare the remnant.
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people (Rev 13:10).
Persecution will produce a prepared remnant if they persevere to the end (Rev 6:9-11). The prepared church drops out of the empire cycle down to the narrow path to the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit will work through his prepared remnant to establish his kingdom on earth.
The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever (Rev 11:15).
Since Jesus victory on the cross, there have been several opportunities for this to happen. The greatest was the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Unfortunately, each time an opportunity has arisen, a remnant that understood the times and was prepared did not exist. Instead, the church had become so entwined with empire that it has been swept away with it when it collapsed.

God's plan is to use the opportunities presented by the collapse of Empire to establish his Kingdom on earth, but he can only do that if he has a remnant that is ready for the task.

This explains why the book of Revelation always seems to be on the verge of fulfilment. It perfectly described the rise and fall of empires.

It also explains why Revelation has not yet been fulfilled perfectly. The opportunity has arisen several times, but the remnant has never been prepared, but like the five foolish maidens, runs out of oil when the going gets tough. So history always clicked back into another turn of the pride/empire cycle.

We are coming into a season where pride and political power are peaking again. The current empire is already overstretched. If the remnant is ready, we could escape the cycle and see the massive advance of the Kingdom of God that the scriptures promise. Our time could be the time of fulfilment, as it was many times before, when the empire of the day collapsed.

The prophetic voice in the church is stronger now than it has ever been. If the prophets fulfil their calling and teach people how to prepare, this could be the time when we escape from the cycle. Unfortunately, most prophets are so dazzled by empire that they do not understand the times, let alone how to prepare. So another remnant might miss the boat, and another opportunity will disappear into the circle of pride and empire.

This current season could still be the one where it happens. Although the power mongers are waiting in the wings, the current empire has not yet reached its peak. There is still time for the remnant to prepare. So wake up prophets and sound a clear trumpet call!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Linear or Circular

Many Christian believe that history is circular. Empires rise and fall. Nations wax and wane. History repeats. Seasons come and go.

This view is not true. God has a purpose, so his approach to history is linear. History has a beginning and an end. And there are key transformational events along the way. The calling of Abraham, giving of the law to Moses, Jesus death resurrection and ascension, the destruction of Jerusalem are examples of transformational events leading to the fulfilment of God’s ultimate purpose.

God’s view of history is linear. Sin is circular. The circularity of sin can be seen in the history of Israel. When things were going well, the children of Israel would forget about God. Forgetfulness led to rebellion, which caused God to withdraw and disaster to follow. When disaster struck the people cried out to God for help. He is merciful so he came and rescued them. Blessings would follow, but the people would soon forget and return to the circle of sin once more.

God’s purpose is leading his people from blessing to blessing, but mostly they get stuck in the circle of sin. This is why history seems to be circular, but that is not God’s plan.

Christians should not assume that history is going round in circles. Rather we should be looking for the next transition even in God’s plan, and make sure we are working with him to get there.

Unfortunately, the church often gets stuck in this circle, too.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Submission or Control

Authority is a topic that gets Christians stirred up. Who should exercise authority in the church? Must everyone submit to the pastor: Do apostles have authority over pastors? Must prophets submit to pastors? These debates focus on control of the church.

The problem is that when control is at work in a church at any level, the spiritual powers of evil have authority to work in it. The question we should be asking why the spiritual powers of evil have authority to work in the church.

The biblical model is that we must all submit to one another and love each other. That means that even the most experienced pastor or prophet can be challenged by a new Christian. Submitting to one another eliminates control and shuts the spiritual powers of evil out of the church.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Territory

A king without territory is not a real king. Unfortunately, since the end of Christendom, the Christians have not been interested in territory. The result is that Jesus has many followers in the world, but very little territory where he has authority. There are very few places where he is king. His followers are scattered throughout territory that is controlled by the enemy. Not surprisingly, they get battered around. The only place they are interested in is a building where they can gather once a week for worship.

A loyal citizen cannot establish a place where his king has authority on his own, because he will be overwhelmed by the surrounding forces. It takes several people living close together in the same area to establish a place where their King has authority, because they can stand together to resist the attacks of the enemy.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Going

The Holy Spirit will go to the lost without us, if we do not go with him (Being Church Where We Live, p.107).
John 7:38-39 indicates that this is one reason we need to keep on being filled with the Spirit.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Strong Words

Neil Cole has just published an article called Breaking the Glass Ceiling. He says,

Church, as we have known it, is mostly removed from influence in society. A misguided extractional approach to our world, where we extricate new adherents from their non-Christian web of relationships to join our separated community, has only succeeded in extracting us from any positive influence.

The result is that we are most often isolated from our neighborhoods and have a reputation for doing little that is good for them. We shout at the world from a distance and are rarely heard. Instead we are the butt of late night jokes. We must face the truth that no matter what we think of ourselves, blessing the community around us is not the reputation we have with our neighbors.

We are deceiving ourselves if we think that meeting on Sundays for songs and sermons is changing the world. We must do more and it must be done outside our walls, but first inside our souls. Break down the stained glass curtain and get out into the neighborhood to help people with genuine love rather than self-interest.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Demoralised Culture

I recently read an article by John F Schumaker, who is a retired psychology academic living in Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. The article called The Demoralized Mind has a message that our modern world needs to hear. He explains that western culture has becomes demoralised in a way that is impossible to avoid in a modern consumer culture.

Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilment. The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction. Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle. The label ‘existential depression’ is not appropriate since, unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life.

As it is absorbed, consumer culture imposes numerous influences that weaken personality structures, undermine coping and lay the groundwork for eventual demoralization. Its driving features – individualism, materialism, hyper-competition, greed, over-complication, overwork, hurriedness and debt – all correlate negatively with psychological health and/or social wellbeing. The level of intimacy, trust and true friendship in people’s lives has plummeted. Sources of wisdom, social and community support, spiritual comfort, intellectual growth and life education have dried up. Passivity and choice have displaced creativity and mastery. Resilience traits such as patience, restraint and fortitude have given way to short attention spans, over-indulgence and a masturbatory approach to life.

Most people do not have a philosophy of life or set of guiding principles that give life meaning, so they easily become dislocated and dispirited.
Despite surface appearances to the contrary, the consumer age is deathly boring. Boredom is caused, not because an activity is inherently boring, but because it is not meaningful to the person. Since the life of the consumer revolves around the overkill of meaningless manufactured low-level material desires, it is quickly engulfed by boredom, as well as jadedness, ennui and discontent. This steadily graduates to ‘existential boredom’ wherein the person finds all of life uninteresting and unrewarding.

Consumption itself is a flawed motivational platform for a society. Repeated consummation of desire, without moderating constraints, only serves to habituate people and diminish the future satisfaction potential of what is consumed. This develops gradually into ‘consumer anhedonia’, wherein consumption loses reward capacity and offers no more than distraction and ritualistic value. Consumerism and psychic deadness are inexorable bedfellows.

Schumaker says that human culture has muted into a marketing machine dominated by economic priorities and psychological manipulation.
Today’s consumers are by far the most propagandized people in history. The relentless and repetitive effect is highly hypnotic, diminishing critical faculties, reducing one’s sense of self, and transforming commercial unreality into a surrogate for meaning and purpose.

The more lost, disoriented and spiritually defeated people become, the more susceptible they become to persuasion, and the more they end up buying into the oversold expectations of consumption. But in unreality culture, hyper-inflated expectations continually collide with the reality of experience. Since nothing lives up to the hype, the world of the consumer is actually an ongoing exercise in disappointment. While most disappointments are minor and easy to dissociate, they accumulate into an emotional background of frustration as deeper human needs get neglected. Continued starvation of these needs fuels disillusion about one’s whole approach to life. Over time, people’s core assumptions can become unstable.

For the younger generation, boredom, disappointment, disillusion and demoralisation are almost inevitable.
Understandably, they have become the trance generation, with an insatiable appetite for any technology that can downsize awareness and blunt the emotions.
This sounds like an ideal situation for a real gospel.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Gospel

When interviewing NT Wright, Trevin Wax asked him to describe the gospel in two minutes. He described what he had said to a Japanese student on a train who asked a question just minutes before he had to leave the train. Tom Wright was reading a book about Jesus and the student, who knew nothing about him, asked Tom who Jesus was. He said,

Jesus was a Jew, who believed that God’s plan to rescue the whole world was coming to fulfilment in him. He died to take the weight of evil upon himself. He rose from the dead and launched God’s project and invited the whole world to join with it and find themselves.
I like that way of putting it. When I became a Christian at the age of 25, I did not hear this gospel, but it was the gospel that I received and believed.

After looking out on the world from a farm for five years, I had realised that it was a mess. I went to University to find out what was wrong and who knew how to put it right. After completing a degree in economics and politics, I discovered that this was a dry well. No one knew how to fix the world, because they did not know how to deal with the problem of the human heart.

When I heard about Jesus again, I realised that he not only knew how to clean up the mess that humans and the spiritual powers of evil had made of the world, but he had done everything that needed to be done to make it possible. That was the good news that lead me to follow Jesus. I was glad to be part of Jesus project, because he knew what he was doing.

A year later, I discovered that he had sent also sent his Holy Spirit to tell us what to do, and to empower us to fulfil the good news of his Kingdom.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Administrative State

In a September 2015 interview, political scientist Charles Murray stated,

The American project, as originally defined, is dead.
In an artcle called Constitutional Conservatism: Its Meaning and Its Future, Samuel Gregg responded with this comment.
One need not accept that stark claim to recognize that impeding (let alone reversing) America’s continuing drift toward an ever-expanding administrative state, rampant crony capitalism, shrinking protections for religious liberty, and a public discourse dominated by sentimental humanitarianism, populist demagoguery, and even socialist rhetoric is not, to put it mildly, going to be simple.
The intensity of debate about the presidential campaign shows that commitment to the Administrative State is alive and well.

Charles Murray explained with the following comment.

The American project consists of the continuing effort, begun with the founding, to demonstrate that humans can be left free as individuals and families to live their lives as they see fit, coming together voluntarily to solve their join t problems This culture was so widely shared among Americans that it amounted to a civil religion. That culture is unraveling (Coming Apart, p.12).
It seems to have been replaced by a culture of a militaristic and administrative state.


T

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fairly Feeble Forces (3) Two Swords

Jesus confirmed the Fairly Feeble Forces principle when he faced a threat of attack by hostile forces. He checked to see if his disciples were armed. Only two of his disciples had swords.

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied (Luke 22:38).
The disciples had two swords. “Machaira” refers to a short sword or long knife that was better for defence than attack. It would have many uses in a Jewish household for cutting food and cloth, so it would not be surprising that the disciples had a couple of them.

Jesus said that two knives were enough for a dozen men, even during a crisis when the authorities were and hostile their lives were under threat. With two knives, twelve men could protect themselves from a small gang of robbers, but nothing more. They would not be capable of dealing with a bigger threat.

When Jesus said that two swords would be enough, he was applying the principle articulated in God’ law, that his people should be weak in weapons, so they would rely on the power of God. Jesus understood the importance of spiritual power.

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels (Matt 26:53)?
Jesus did not need physical weapons, because he trusted his Father. However, his disciples would not have the same level of faith, so he was happy for them to have a couple of weapons in case they came under attack. But he wanted them to be weak, so they would be forced to trust in God.

Once Jesus was confronted by a “crowd armed with swords and clubs” sent by the Jewish authorities (Mark 14:23), Jesus counted the cost, and decided that he would surrender to them, even though they had no legal authority to arrest him. He chose to go to his death, rather engage in a futile fight.

That principle has not changed. Jesus still prefers that his people trust in him for their protection, rather than relying on weapons of war. War does such terrible harm, it is usually better to suffer and die, than to go to war.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fairly Feeble Forces (2)

The restrictions on military forces provided by the law mean that the ability of the people of God to engage in warfare will be very limited. This has the following benefits.

  • Military adventures to gain wealth by seizing control of another community are not practical.

  • Empire building is impossible.

  • Using miliatry power to advance democracy and capitalism would be impossible.

  • When a community faces an external military attack, they will usually have to sue for peace.

  • If they choose to resist the invader, they will have to rely on God’s assistance. If God does not come to their aid, they will fail.

God prefers to work with weakness, because when his people are weak, he is strong. A weak defence gives him an opportunity to demonstrate his power.

The Midianite army faced by Gideon filled the Valley of Jezreel like a swarm of locusts. Their number was too many to count (Jud 6:33). Gideon stood up against this massive army with a revelation from God and 300 men, armed with trumpets and torches (Jud 7:7,16). They do not seem to have had swords. When they turned on their lights and sounded their trumpets, God threw the Midianites soldiers into confusion and they attacked each other (Jud 7:22). The formidable army fled the country in fear. This is how God prefers to defend his people.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fairly Feeble Forces (1)

The limitations specified by the law mean the people of God will always have fairly feeble military forces. In fact, they will hardly be military at all. Here are some of the restrictions to military power specified by the law.

  • Acquiring offensive weapons is forbidden (Deut 17:16: Joshua 11:6). That rules out high-powered rifles, machine guns and artillery.

  • Participation in defence of the community is voluntary. No one should be forced to engage in fighting against their will. Compulsory military training and service is forbidden (Jud 7:3).

  • Men who have recently married, or built a house or started a business should not be involved in defence, because they need to focus their attention on what they have just started (Deut 20:5-7).

  • People who are afraid or tender-hearted should be freed from defensive activities (Deut 20:8).

  • God’s people must not to form alliances with powerful nations (Is 31:1).

  • The people must defend themselves with what they have (1 Sam 13:22). . They would use the tools and equipment that they already had for use on their farms and in their households. Knives and hayforks were their only weapons. This prevents them from relying on their weapons rather than on God.

  • The community must not waste resources making or buy weapons or war. In Samuel’s time, the children of Israel did not have blacksmiths. They relied on the Philistines for sharpening their ploughshares, axes and sickles (1 Sam 13:21). From an economic perspective, this was unwise, but from the perspective of faith, it was perfect. None of the Israelites except Saul or Johnathan had a sword or spear (1 Sam 13:22). They Philistines had 3000 chariots with two skilled soldiers for each chariot (1 Sam 13:5). Israel was outnumbered in men and weapons, but that did not matter, because this was a perfect because they had to rely on God for their physical protection.

  • All military leaders must be temporary. They are given authority by local communities when a threat arises, but they must go back to their normal lives when the battle is complete. This limits their ability to fight wars, but it is better than having permanent military leaders who become advocates for unnecessary wars.

  • Professional military forces are dangerous, because those who constantly train for war eventually start looking for opportunities to fight. Under God’s model of defence, ordinary people come together to defend their communities. They will not be skilled fighters, but that does not matter, because they will be forced to rely on God.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Territory

Christendom understood the importance of territory. Its problem was that sought to control territory using Imposed Authority supplemented by state power. That approach undermined the gospel and eventually destroyed Christendom from within.

We need an approach to Kingdom of God that understands the importance of territory, but expands its influence using Free Authority.

See Kingdom Authority.