Friday, March 31, 2006

Watchmen (5)

We must remember the purpose of the watchmen. They are not there to boost the name of the enemy and paralyse God’s people with fear. Their purpose is to warn the people of danger, while it is still a long way off. This gives the people living outside the city time to get behind the walls where they will be safe. The watchman's warning also gives the city leaders time to prepare their defences, so they can repel the enemy when he comes.

The safety of a city depends on the watchmen being on the watchtower. It also depends on the leaders at the gate heeding their warning. If the watchmen and the leaders at the gate of the city each do their task, the enemy’s plans should be defeated and the city kept safe.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Watchmen (4)

We must keep God's perspective in mind when interpreting warning visions. Christians often get so focused on the evil that Satan has planned that they fail to notice God'’s response. This gives Satan a place he does not deserve. He is a loser and all his schemes and plans will fail. Getting us absorbed in the negative part of a vision is the enemy's favourite trick for causing us to miss what God is saying and doing.

This is the worst feature of many "prophecy sites" on the internet. The bloggers and discussion boards get so absorbed in the evil being warned against, that they miss what God is saying and promising. We should fear God, not the devil and his schemes. We should listen very carefully to what God is saying through a vision.

The watchman's task is not to make Christians afraid, but to show them how they can be victorious, if they get ready. Most visions are not about the people of God being defeated, but are a promise that God'’s people can be victorious, if the watchmen do their work. We need watchmen who can tell us how to get ready.


Here are a couple of examples.

In 1982, a visiting English preacher called David Pawson shared a vision of a Commando Army around New Zealand. The vision promised that if New Zealand Christians formed into commando units, they would experience victory when an economic crisis came. Christians immediately focussed on the crash and when it would come. The name of the vision was changed to the Coming Bombshell. The challenge to form commando units was ignored and the promise of victory was lost.

Another example is the response to the Day of the Watchmen by Hollie Moody. Her vision gives a powerful challenge to watchmen. I suspect that it may also be a warning of the dangers of cloning humans. God seems to be promising that if the watchman are alert and do their work, this evil will not succeed. Yet most of the focus has been on the evil, and the vision is now called the Nephilim Vision. As usual, many Christians have bought into the evil, but missed the challenge and ignored the hope.

I believe that the same problem applies to our interpretation of Daniel and Revelation. All the negative passages are applied to the current age. All the promises of victory are pushed to after the second coming. This gives a total distorted view of God's plan and produces Pessimistic Christianity.

When interpreting visions from God, we should take off our dark glasses and listen carefully to God's promises of victory and hope in the light of his word.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Watchmen (3)

A watchman was standing on a watchtower. He saw trouble coming and told the shepherds to get the sheep into the safety of the fold. The shepherd asked the watchman to get the sheep into the fold. However, when the watchman tried to round up the sheep, they just scattered. They did not know the voice of the watchman. Only when the shepherds heeded the watchman’s warning and called the sheep did the sheep come into the fold.

Watchmen stand on the walls of the city of God so that they can see what God is doing and call the people to respond. Watchmen look out into the darkness and the distance to see what evil is coming and what God is doing. Good relationships between pastors and the watchman are essential. The watchman should communicate what they see to the pastors. The pastors can then prepare the sheep for what is going to happen. The sheep know their shepherd and they will respond to them. If they do not know the voice of the watchmen, they will not respond to them.

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Watchmen (2)

When a watchman receives a dream or vision about a cataclysmic event, they should be very careful about how they give warning. Before speaking, they should find out the status and meaning of the events they have seen.

Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? (1 Cor 14:8).
A cataclysmic vision or dream may have any of the following possible meanings.
  1. symbolic message with a spiritual interpretation,
  2. a warning of what Satan is planning, so that we can resist him,
  3. a warning event, that is a type of something worse coming,
  4. an event that may happen soon
  5. and event that is a long way into the future,
  6. and event that will only happen, if God's people do not repent.
  7. a final judgment on a people that has rejected God.
The appropriate response is different for each of these different types.

Modern Christians have a tendency to assume the worst. We generally interpret vision or dream of awful events literally. We also assume that the event is coming soon and that its coming is certain. This is often not the case.

Sounding the trumpet is not sufficient. Sharing a vision is not enough. Watchmen are required to sound the trumpet clearly. When sharing a vision or dream, they should also explain its meaning. If this does not happen, God's people will become confused. Too much confusion could lead to Christians being defeated and God's name being mocked.

During this current season, too many confusing visions are being shared. Many of these visions have come from the Lord, but because their meaning is misunderstood, God's people are being confused. We need a clear sounding of the trumpet to prepare God's people for victory.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Watchmen (1)

The place of watchmen is on the wall, looking out into the direction that he is pointing. The can be lonely, discouraging work. Jesus is pleading with his watchmen to stay on the walls where he needs them to be.

Many watchmen are down in the city chatting with friends, because they got lonely. Others are on the conference circuit, where the money us better. Some are busy trolling the internet, but that is not the same as listening to the Lord. Others grew tired and have gone to sleep. Others have given up, because they are weary of their warnings being rejected.

Jesus urgently needs his watchmen to get back up on the watchtower where he has appointed them.

Monday, March 27, 2006

City Politics

Our city leaders are worried about the inner city. Shoppers have stopped going to the inner city, because they prefer shopping in suburban shopping malls. The parking is better and the shops are closer together and under cover.

So what does the City Council do? What they are good at. Spend more money. They are increasing the rates (paid by people who prefer shopping in suburban malls), so they can spend millions on revitalization the inner city. There aim is to make people (who prefer shopping in suburban shopping malls) shop in the city centre. They know best where people should do their shopping, so they will spend the people's money, getting them to do their shopping in a place where they don't like shopping. This is the twisted logic of the politicians.

I am glad that this City Council was not around when the horse and carriage was being superseded by the automobile. I presume they would have taxed cars, so they could spend millions preserving the carriage building industry.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Big Man Leadership

The problem I described yesterday is not confined to the United States. Excessive dependence on hierarchical, charismatic leadership is also a serious problem in Africa, where people look for a big man to follow. In return for their allegiance, the big man is expected to care for them. This is the reason why political corruption is so endemic in Africa. When a person gets to a position of power, they are expected to usethat power to care for their family and supporters is normal. This is normal in African society.

The church is growing fast in Africa, but corruption is not retreating. I expect that part of the reason is the church leadership model being taught by Western missionaries. Mega churches have the same ‘big man’ leadership concept, where one person leads and the rest follow. To be part of the solution in Africa, churches will have to find a leadership model that does not depend on a “big man”. African churches should be adopting a shared leadership model that encourages church members to take responsibility for their own life.

Only when the church has adopted a different leadership model will it be able to challenge the ‘big man” concept and the associated corruption that cripples African development.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bushing the Beast

Andrew Sullivan a neocon political commentor has some interesting comments about the loyalty of Christians to George Bush. He said,

Karl Rove has accelerated the transformation of the Republican Party from a party of limited government and individual liberty to one of Christianist fundamentalism and big government largess.
I find this amazing, but I presume it is true. I thought that Christians believed in limited government and liberty. Where is the Sermon on the Mount when we need it?

Sullivan also said,
The key element that binds Christianism with Bush Republicanism is fealty to patriarchal leadership. That's the institutional structure of the churches that are now the Republican base; and it's only natural that the fundamentalist psyche, which is rooted in obedience and reverence for the inerrant pastor, should be transferred to the presidency.
I am not surprised by this statement. For many years, Christians have submitted to their pastors without question. It is not surprising that they would transfer the same loyalty to a man they believe to be their political leader.

This is a distrubing thought. We live during a time when "state power" is the spirit of the age. Instead of cheering it on, Christians should be leading the charge against it. A few years ago, I wrote the following warning. I believe that it is as relevant now as it was then.

Christians should be leading the battle against the power of the state. Faith in God and providence should have made them impervious to the states promises of cradle to grave security. The Bible repeatedly warns of the dangers of political powers (beasts) that will arise and oppose the purposes of God. The early Christians heeded these warnings and struggled against the "powers that be," whenever they exceeded their authority. In contrast, modern Christians are strangely acquiescent in the face of massive state power. They are often the best cheerleaders for this emerging Beast.

Whereas Jesus and the early disciples followed the example of the OT prophets and were willing to challenge illegitimate state power, the modern church is producing Christians who are trained in compliance. Most new Christians have handed authority over much of their lives to church leaders who tell them what to believe and what to do. They have been taught to blindly submit to that hierarchical authority that controls much of the modern church. Compliant "Yes men" are not well placed to lead the battle against state power.

A Church that treasures liberty under God and encourages faith will be the best antidote against rampant state power. Christians will only be ready to lead the battle against tyranny, when they stop being at home in hierarchy.
(Silent Before the Beast).

Friday, March 24, 2006

More on Law

Charles Glass, reviewing several books about militant Islam in the London Review of Books, gives the following description of the views of a well-known Moslem leader.

Men do not make laws, God does. Scholars have the important task of understanding, interpreting and applying God'’s law. Bin Laden does not believe in legislators, because there is nothing to legislate. Law is eternal. It issues in the Sharia. There can be jurists and governors, but not legislators.
If you replace the word "Sharia" with "Torah", this is a good statement of the Christian position. God has given us his law, so we do not need another law.
The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good (Rom 7:12).

God's law is perfect, holy and eternal. Given that we have his law, we do not need human legislators to make laws. The best they can do is produce human laws that are inferior to God's law. We may need people to study God's law and clarify its meaning, but the generally it can be understood by everyone.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple (Ps 19:7).

Sammy Laden has a clearer understanding of the role of law than most Christians. What a pity that he has confused the deceptions of Mohammed with God's revelation to Moses.

For More on the Law

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Day of Disappointment

Day of Disapointment is todays news headline about the New Zealand performance at the Aussie games.

Disappointment is etched deep on our culture. The early settlers who came to New Zealand were deeply disappointed. We think New Zealand is a beautiful country, and it is. For settlers, used to the green of England, it was awful. The land was rough, rugged and barren. The work was hard and back breaking, especially for the women. Only their pride stopped them from admitting their mistake and going back. Nevertheless a deep sense of disappointment rested on their spirit.

The disappointment has been handed down through the generations. Many of us have had parents who felt that they did not achieve their full potential and felt disappointed with life. For many Christians, life has not worked out in the way that they hoped and they have transferred this disappointment to God. This disappointment and regret is manifested in our culture in several different ways.

1) Tilting at windmills
New Zealanders try to cover their disappointment by proving themselves in dramatic ways on the world stage. We generally try to do this in aspects of life that are relatively trivial. The best example of this behaviour is our obsession with being world champions at rugby. It does not matter that only 5 countries play the game seriously, or that three of these do not play rugby as their national game. We cover up our disappointment by claiming that we are the best in the world. We carry the same attitude into the Commonwealth Games, where we believe we can punch above our weight.

2)A Critical Spirit
Disappointment is often expressed in intense criticism of any New Zealander who is successful. This is the tall poppy syndrome. Whenever, someone rises to the top, the great Kiwi clobbering machine chops them down to size. The intense criticism of the athletes who fail is an example of this response. In other countries, people celebrate the success of their countrymen.

3) Flogging dead horses
Disappointment combined with pride makes us unwilling to admit our mistakes and change direction. We carry on with dogged determination, even when we are disappointed with our situation or what we have achieved. We will not turn back and seek something better, because we do not want to admit our disappointment. Persistence is an important virtue, but not when we are persisting in second best.

4) Paralysis
Disappointment can also cripple us. Fear of further disappointment can prevent us from taking on new challenges.

5) Self Pity
Disappointment often feeds into self pity. A disappointed person tends to pass the buck for their failures. Rather than taking responsibility for their mistakes, they make excuses and blame others for their troubles.

God can heal disappointment, but the best antidote against it is a solid hope for the future based on the promises and plans of God. The reason that the early settlers were disappointed was that they did not understand God’s purpose for New Zealand. He brought people from Europe to New Zealand, because he wanted them to establish his Kingdom here. The reason that we have still not overcome that disappointment is the same. We have not realised that God wants to establish his Kingdom in New Zealand and export it from here to the rest of the world.

Seeking other goals will result in failure and regret. New Zealand is a good place to build the Kingdom of God. We should seek first the Kingdom of God. Those who seek God’s Kingdom will not be disappointed.

No Nations

When the Kingdom of God comes, nations will disappear. Although we see them as a normal party of life, they have no place in God’s plan. A nation is not created by a common language. Canadians and Americans speak English, but they are not one nation. A common culture does not create a nation. A nation is defined by a common ruler: whether king or parliament. A nation is a group of people that are ruled by the same political ruler. A nation has a common set of laws. The boundary of the nation includes all territory where that law applies.

When the Kingdom of God has come, all people will acknowledge the law of God. His law will be the only law, so kings and parliament will have nothing to do and will cease to exist. If there is no king or parliament, there will be nation. The only boundaries will be between areas were the law of God is acknowledged and nations that still want human laws. Within areas where God is acknowledged their will be no boundaries, because there will be no kings and parliament.

Different localities and communities will have their own judges, but they will be all applying the law of God. Different languages may be spoken in different places and culture will differ from place to place, but their will be no political boundaries, because there will be no political institutions. Christ will be all in all.

The book of Revelation is about the disenfranchisement of kings (and democracies). They will hide under the rocks and in the caves (Rev 6:15-16).

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jingo Games

Our television screens are currently dominated by the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. The (British) Commonwealth is the last vestiges of the British Empire that dominated the world during the 19th century.

I find it rather bizzare that 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 to we need to prove that we are better than other nations.

I also feel sorry for the athletes. They do all the hard training, but their nation takes the some 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. If they new how unathletic I am, they would not want to represent me.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek‚… for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26-28).
If this is true, why would I want to claim that I am an American, or a Canadian, or a New Zealander? If I am passionate about being in Christ Jesus, how can I be passionate about by nation?

I am very wary about cheering my national team. I do not feel comfortable about saying ‚“We won‚” when all I did was sit on a couch and perhaps cheer.

National pride is the thin end of the wedge of nationalism. Nationalism dominated the twentieth century and terrible evils were done in the name of nationalism. I suspect that people who get wrapped up in a national team, will be more open to the militaristic adventures of their nationalist governments.

Nationalism also buttresses state power. When a government politician says, "We have paid for more cataract operations"”, he is using the word "“We"” in the same way as the person sitting on the couch who says, "We won the rugby". Both are taking credit for something to which they contributed nothing.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Prophetic Boldness and Prophetic Sensitivity

A prophet needs enormous boldness to speak God's truth to hostile and powerful people.

A prophet also needs enormous sensitivity, to hear Gods heart and demonstrate his love.

There are plenty of bold people who wade in boots and all,
and plenty of sensitive people who would not say boo to a mouse,
but only a rare few can combine the boldness and the sensitivity
needed to be a prophet to the nation.
Jeremiah was one who did.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Rebellion to tyrants
is obedience to God.

John Leland


What is the Obstacle?

George Barna tracks the religious beliefs and practices of Americans. He said,

The relationship between people’s perception of their religious commitment and their reticence to make faith their top priority points to a significant disconnect.

It seems as if God is in, but living for God is not. Many Americans are living a dual life – one filled with good feelings about God and faith, corroborated by some simple religious practices, and another in which they believe they are in control of their own destiny and operate apart from Him.
I have been wondering if the same disconnect exists in New Zealand. Yesterday I was talking to Dennis Smith about the slow progress of the house church movement in this country, and wondering about the reason.

In the 1980s, I published a little booklet called The Bride of Christ. It described an organic/simple model of church based in houses. I sold thousands of copies and had to do a reprint. Hundreds of people wrote an said that the book had spoken to them. They didn't just speak of theological agreement, but said that the book descibed what the Holy Spirit had been saying to them. Many spoke of God doing a new thing in our time.

The standard PR principle is that one letter represents a hundred people with similar opinions. On that basis, I can only assume that the Holy Spirit was speaking to thousands of Christians about doing a new thing here in New Zealand. I assume that he was speaking to thousands of people about house churches and relationship-based churches.

In other countries, the numbers of house churches runs to thousands. Here in New Zealand, there must be less than a hundred house churches. I cannot help wondering about what has happened to all those people who believed that the Holy Spirit was speaking to them about House Churches. What are they doing now? Is starting a house church too hard. Was there some other obstacle? If you know the answer please let me know.

Sovereignty (2)

Most citizens of western nations do not acknowledge God. That is their choice. However if there is no god, there can be no absolute standard of right and wrong. We are then left with moral relativism; with each persons opinion being as good as another. In this situation any consensus on correct behaviour will be impossible.

Even if a broad consensus could be achieved, it would have no coercive power. In a society which values pluralism and tolerance any person would be free to opt out of the consensus. Today, we seem to have enshrined relativism as a god. However relativism provides no basis for coercing people to a particular kind of behaviour. Only if people return to God, and acknowledge his standards, will we be able to have a code of behaviour that can be enforced.

The most serious problem with modern democracy is that it makes the civil government the centre of the moral universe. It implies that we are accountable to the government and not to God for our moral behaviour. This is incorrect. We are accountable to God, not to the civil government. God is our creator. He is our judge. Each one of us will have to give an account of our life to him. We are not required to give an account for our behaviour to the civil government. God is sovereign.

The Lord is our judge;
The Lord is our lawgiver;
The Lord is our King;
It is he who will save us.
Isaiah 33:2
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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sovereignty (1)

The modern focus on democracy assumes that either the government or the people can decide what is correct or appropriate behaviour. That is not true The state cannot decide what is right and wrong. Humans do not have authority to decide morality. God is our creator, so all morality must start with his sovereignty. Right and wrong originate in his character. He is the only one who can decree what is correct behaviour.

God has already given us a perfect code of behaviour in his word and his law. He has expressed his standard of morality in the Bible, and especially in the law. If followed, it will produce individual blessing and harmony in the nation. However the human problem has always been a problem of behaviour and not one of knowledge. We always know what is right; it is written on our hearts. Our problem is doing what is right.

Justice or Tyranny

God’s law produces Justice
Man’s law leads to Tyranny

Friday, March 17, 2006

Prophetic Role

Prophets have

  • Insight
  • Foresight
  • Oversight
Often through vision,
not limited in time or space.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Restraining the Sword

The sword is dangerous and the political sphere will always tend to expand. People with political power will always see new problems to solve and their people will often expect them to solve them. Rulers will always face the temptation to expand their power. Pressure to do more good is dangerous, because the state can use force to expand its role. This is a great dilemma for political theory. The state needs force to punish criminals and protect society. However, this monopoly of force makes it almost impossible for citizens to prevent their government from expanding its power. We cannot resist the state, because it is stronger than we are.

History suggests that this is a serious problem. Throughout the twentieth century, the power of the state, whether dictator or democracy, has increased immensely. Even where political powers start out with modest intentions, they seem to end up with more power and control. Democracy does not prevent this from happening, but tends to make the situation worse. It tends to produce leaders who pander to the desires of the people by expanding political power. The United States constitution was carefully designed to limit political power, but the United States government has now amassed incredible power over its citizens.

The only antidote to the expanding state is Christian prophets proclaiming the law in partnership with God. When the church is functionally correctly, God will raise up prophets to the nation, who can speak his word to its rulers. These prophets will confront their rulers, whenever they take up power and responsibility that does not belong to them. Biblical law sets out the boundaries on the power of the state.

The Prophets of God will challenge any political ruler who takes powers that are not authorised by the law. If the rulers do not heed these warnings, the prophets will announce God’s judgement against them. If the rulers then persist in taking power that God has not given to them, they will experience his judgement. If they will not voluntarily shrink their power to the size specified by God’s law, he will cut them down to size. The law and the prophets are the key to limiting the power of the state (Rom 3:21).

This earth belongs to the Lord, so all rulers are his servants. They do not have absolute power, but exercise delegated power given to them by God. If they take power that has not been delegated to them, they are in rebellion against him. When a ruler ignores God’s will, the prophets will warn of God’s judgement. If the rulers refuse to surrender to God, they can expect his sanctions to fall upon them. The best restraint on the power of the sword is the power of the trumpet.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Prophetic Advice

God establishes a prophet to the nation in his position by giving him the wisdom that the ruler needs. The King of Israel knew that Elisha was a prophet, because his words were correct. The King of Babylon trusted Daniel, because he correctly interpreted a dream that none or the Babylonian wise men understood.

This is a very important principle. Many people, including prophets, are willing to criticism their government. Prophets to the nation are different. They start their career by assisting their government in tricky situations. Ahab trusted Miciah’s words, because he provided correct advice in the past (1 Kings 22:7,8). Rulers will be glad to have prophets in their court, even if they hate God, because they need their advice.

Prophets will give warning to the rulers of nation when they are taking the wrong direction or taking authority that God has not given them. The Old Testament prophets spent much of their time warning kings who had rejected God's way and were following the way of the world. Strong prophets are the best protection against the power of the state.

Good rulers will welcome correction. The prophet Nathan challenged David when he committed adultery and murder, but remained his friend. Nathan had established his credibility with David much earlier, when the King was planning the temple (1Sam 7). Every ruler needs a prophet like Nathan who can hear the voice of God and challenge his sin. Rulers are usually surrounded by people trying to "grease up" to them. In this environment a prophetic friend is the best protection against the occupation hazard of hubris. All rulers need a friend to speak God’s word to them.

The prophet to the nation will pray for their government. Samuel prayed all night when his friend King Saul fell from grace (1 Sam 15:11). Every political leader needs a friend of God who will intercede for him in this way.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Moral Campaigners

God calls does not call Christians to be "moral campaigners". The Pharisees were the moral campaigners of Jesus time. They loved to find fault with the weak and sinful people in their society, but Jesus criticised them for their lack of mercy and their spiritual blindness. He showed mercy to those trapped in the grip of sin.

The Pharisees got things all wrong. They could not see their own sin, so they seemed like hypocrites. They dealt harshly with weak people who had been seduced by a culture of sin and were not clever enough to hide it, but missed the far more serious sins of society’s leaders. They focused on obvious sexual sins, but were blinded to the more deceptive sins that open the nation to evil. This should be a serious warning to those who campaign against sin.

God does not need moral campaigners, but he does call a few of his people to speak prophetically to the nation. These prophets will remind the nation of God’s standards and warn of the consequences for society. A key part of their role is to identify the core evils that are the root of their society’s problems. They will not be obsessed with the more obvious sexual sins, but will focus on the subtle shifts in attitude that creep in and open the door to real evil. They will know that the sins of their political and cultural leaders are usually well hidden, but are really dangerous to society.

True prophets will be concerned about devious and influential sins, like pride, selfishness and "state idolatry". They will be less concerned about sexual sins, as these generally only emerge when other more subtle sins have already taken hold in society. Blatant sexual sin is a symptom of a sick world, but is not the root cause. Prophets will be more concerned about the cause than the symptoms. They will focus on the issues that are really damaging their society.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Embarrassing Prophets

Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other (1 Cor 12:22-25).

Christians are often embarrassed by God's watchmen, as they can be intense, opinionated or scruffy. Watchmen maybe the eyes of the body, but they are also the bums that get rid of the "crap". If God's watchmen are not functioning effectively in a church, it will fill up with rubbish and become contaminated. So while the watchmen has an unseemly task, they are important for the functioning of the body and deserve equal concern and respect.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Where are the Watchmen?

John Martin has written an excellent article on the Ministry of the Watchman. He suggests the pastor/leaders have emasculated the watchmen in their midst by calling them intercessors. Intercessors speak to God and not to his people, so they are safer to have around than watchmen. This re-branding has effectively "silenced many of God's watchmen".

"The true church could not have become the "institution" it has, if the watchmen had not been rendered impotent."

See his full article for more.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Prophet to the Nation

A prophet to the nation has several functions. Their main role is to provide guidance to rulers. Prophets will be experts on the law, so they will teach political authorities how to obey it.

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees (Deut 17:18,19).
The prophet to the nation will teach the rulers of the nation how to implement God’s law. As prophets love the law more than others, they will have better understanding of its principles. Their wisdom will assist those who are struggling to interpret the law. Prophets will understand the principles of good government, so they will be able to provide good guidance those in authority.

Ruling a nation can be a frightening task. Many decisions have to be made and most of them are hard, so rulers have always attempted to surround themselves with wise people. The king of Israel knew the benefit of having a prophet close by to help him make decisions.

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, "I will set up my camp in such and such a place. The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: "Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there." So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, "Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?" "None of us, my lord the king," said one of his officers, "but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom." (2 Kings 6:8-12).
Prophets will give supernatural guidance to the political ruler. Because their wisdom is from God, it will be effective.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Thankless Work

Sometimes being prophetic is hard and thankless work. Gary North explains why in Prophets, Leaders, Followers.

I do not recommend becoming a prophet. A prophet confronts those of his generation with a warning: obey God’s law or come under God’s negative sanctions. Rarely does anyone believe a prophet.

The prophet must identify the fundamental evil of his generation. He must also identify long in advance the most likely specific evils that will consume the society and bring God’s wrath.

The prophet attracts a few followers, as Jesus did, and these men subsequently become leaders. They do not lead, however, until the prophet is removed from the scene.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Shortage of Prophets

One reason that tyranny has been so serious in the twentieth century is the lack of prophets in the nations. There have been no prophets challenging political rulers to obey the law of God. Many rulers do not even know that they are required to serve God, or that he has put limits on their jurisdiction. God can only act against evil rulers, if he has a prophet to speak out his challenge and warn of his judgements.

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothingwithout revealing his plan to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:10).
God will not bring sanctions against wicked rulers unless their sins are clearly understood.

God does not like to send judgement against the leaders of a nation, unless his prophets have announced it. If prophets have not announced the judgement in advance, the rulers will not understand that it was sent by God. They will not realise that the calamity is the consequence of their sins. They will assume that it is just another tragic event. Some rulers may even use the trouble to expand their powers. If judgement is not announced in advance by the prophets, its purpose is diffused or lost.

Isaiah 16 describes a number of kings and tyrants, who were brought down from the place of pride and power by the shaking of God. He gave relief from suffering and cruel bondage by destroying the aggressive and oppressive rulers. God was able to stretch forth his hand and accomplish his purpose, because prophets like Isaiah had prophesied against them (Isaiah 12-23)

The worst thing that can happen to a nation is the have no prophets. Psalm 74 is the cry of a people suffering under tyranny.
We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them! (Psalm 74:9-11).
The Psalmist feels like his nation is in a hopeless situation. It is being ruled by tyrants and God’s hand of judgement against this injustice is being held back. The Psalmist knows that God has power to destroy the wicked ruler, but while there are no prophets this is unlikely to happen.

This lack of prophets is a still a problem in the modern world. Prophets to the nation will have to emerge in the church first, but the modern church has been unwilling to release this gift in the church. The prophetic ministry has been stifled in the church, so prophets to the nation have been unable to develop. The absence of the prophetic ministry has impoverished the church, but it has had even more serious consequences for the world. Tyrants have been able to rule with impunity, as God’s hand of judgement has been held back, hidden his garment, the church.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Where are the Prophets

Randy Williams makes some perceptive comments in his article called Where Are the Prophets.

In some churches the “prophecy” is very weak. It doesn't "move" or "stir" anyone and it is forgotten almost as soon as it is pronounced. For example you have a “dead” church of bored complacent saints and someone stands up and says “my sweet children, how I love you and want you to be free from any striving”. And no one speaks up either to confirm or reject the word given. And each week the same person stands up and gives the same type of flowery “feel good” word. If Elijah himself were there he’d be scratching his head saying “Striving? These people wouldn’t know how to strive if their life depended on it. Did she say striving or snoring?"

The prophet is designed by the Lord to be the ‘eyes’ of the body. They are designed to be “watchmen”. Yet in our modern pastor-dominated churches the watchmen is not allowed to speak out on what he sees. Can you fathom the foolishness of this? Imagine a watchman in Israel on the wall. He sees the enemy approaching, he starts to yell out to warn the people, then someone says “brother, please don’t raise your voice, we don’t want to startle anyone.” So the people aren’t warned at all. You would agree that this is absurdity, yet you sit in a church week in and week out that functions in exactly this manner.

There are prophets among us today just as there have always been prophets. Prophets are meant to be a functioning part of the “body of Christ”. I have to say “meant to be” because we do not see them actually functioning this way today. Why don’t we? There are a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are deep seated and foundational. We can summarize it by saying “the churches today don’t follow a biblical model”.
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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Right is Wrong

The Christian is right is wrong. While claiming to be anti-state and pro-business, it has allowed big business to capture the state. In the Kingdom of God, small businesses will predominate. Big business aims to control broad areas of economic activity. The kingdom way will be numbers of smaller business joined together by a network of supplier contracts.

Ready for the Times

We are living in one of those pivotal times in history when the world is changing rapidly and many familiar landmarks are being shaken. Many Christians are just being swept along by a tide of events, but those who understand the times and seize the opportunity will see God doing a new thing. The new book, Being Church Where We Live, provides important wisdom and insights for a time such as this. Many of the topics covered are missed by other authors.

For example, many American Christians believe that they are living in the "last days" and that things will soon get tough, but most are still living as if the good times will last forever. I am amazed by the complacency, because it will be too late to work out what to do, when everything has turned to custard. Being Church Where We Live explains how to persecution-proof a church, so that it can continue to be effective through tribulations and victories.

Many Christians have a strong calling to be part of a christian community. Steve Bush said, "We want a community that will make a difference in the world. That can only happen if the community is truly in the world. We won't huddle inside our church buildings as if they were bomb shelters. We won't lock ourselves inside, waiting for the poor and needy to come knocking at the doors. No, we will be out there. Out there! In the world, rubbing shoulders with people." Being Church Where We Live explains how a church can be a community of people living in the same locality and caring for each other within strong relationships. This can be done in any town or city with existing housing, without pooling money, building special buildings, or heading for the hills. Strong community will support the deeper fellowship and greater sharing that is essential for escaping the bondage of individualism and consumerism.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Suffering (13) and Comfort

Although Peter sees suffering as part of God s will for Christians, he does not diminish its seriousness. Rather he calls it a fiery ordeal (1 Pet 1:12). He does not pretend that the Christian life is easy, but declares that it will be hard. This is demonstrated by the urgency with which he encouraged the people receiving his letter. By pointing out the glory which is theirs, and the benefits which their suffering will bring, he hopes to comfort them.

Peter has suffered, so he knows how hard suffering can be. He urges the Christians not to lose heart, or be overcome by their difficulties. If we hold fast, then the God who has called us will bless us, and bring us into his glory. In our suffering we are sharing with Christ, and this is the greatest privilege that anyone can have. So even in the hardest times we can rejoice. Then we will be able to share with him in all his glory, when it is eventually revealed. This is a glorious message for us, should we ever be called to suffer for the name of Jesus.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Pet 5:10).
This is my final post on Suffering. The full series is available at Suffering.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Suffering (12) and Good Works

Christians should respond to suffering with good works. Peter does not call for passive resignation to suffering, but demands a demonstration of love towards our enemies through active kindness. Over and over again Peter urges the Christians to do good works (1 Pet 1:15; 2: 12, 13; 3:6, 11, 13, 17; 4 19). He is not suggesting that salvation is by works, but rather he is concerned that persecution may cause Christians to withdraw from their society. Instead of retreating, we should actively attack evil by doing good, whenever we can. Suffering should not diminish our zeal for performing acts of love, but spur us on.

If Christians who are persecuted respond in these ways, they will bring glory to God through their suffering. They should refrain from retaliation and commit their cause to God.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Suffering (11) and Submission

Christians should also respond to suffering in a spirit of submission. An important theme in the epistle is submission to authority, even where it is heathen and harsh. Selwyn says that the trait of Jesus’ character which was most admired by Peter was his meekness. He laid aside his divine glory and followed this humiliation though, even to the Cross, He is the one who suffered and did not threaten, though he had the power to do so.

Christians must follow this example and react to all authority with humility and submission. God will oppose those who are proud and give grace and protection to those who are humble.
We do not submit blindly to authority, but freely for the sake of the gospel.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors....For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (1 Pet 2:12-15
Peter admits that the authority of rulers and governors comes from man, but he urges submission to them so that the gospel will not be hindered. The political leaders might be the enemies of God, but we are required to respond to our enemies with love. For Peter love involved submission.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Suffering (10) and Love

If suffering is God's will we must respond to it in God's way. Therefore, Peter outlines the response a Christian should give to persecution and rough treatment. It is not an easy response.

First, a Christian must not respond to opposition or hostility with hate or retaliation, but with love . This should be evident from the example of Christ.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Pet 2:23).
Christians should follow his example.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Pet 3:9).
If Christians retaliate, the wrongdoer will be put off the Christian life. Retaliation leads to bitterness, so the only good response to evil is love.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Suffering (9) Self-inflicted

Self-inflicted suffering has no value. Christians can become obsessed with suffering, and seek opportunities to suffer. Some even beat their own bodies. This is wrong, because suffering in itself is not virtuous. Only if it is used to glorify God does it have value. Thomas Merton says that although prayer and sacrifice require each other, premature martyrdom is only inverted egotism.

It would be more sincere and more religious to eat a full dinner in the spirit of gratitude, than to make a sacrifice of part of it with the feeling that one is suffering martyrdom. Self chosen sacrifices are nearly always inferior to those unasked for ones which the situation throws in the way (T Merton, The Contemplative Life, p.22).
I am amazed by the number of Christians, who assume that things going wrong is a sign that they are doing God's will. They assume that the devil is attacking them to stop them doing God's the right thing, even when making decisions about quite mundane things. This view gives too higher place to the devil and overates my importance to his schemes. Assuming that I deserve special attention from him is quite arrogant. This approach also under-rates the effectiveness of the spiritual protection that God has provided for his people.

Sometimes things to go wrong when we obey God. In Peter's case, this happened when he proclaimed the gospel and confronted the political powers (Acts 4), not when he was buying a new house. Things can go wrong when obey God, but that is just one possiblility. Things might be going wrong because we are ignoring God's will. Troubles are not a sign that we are in God's will. They can also be a sign that we do not understand spiritual protection.

Peter brings balance to this by warning that we can suffer for doing the wrong thing, just as easily as for doing the right thing.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Suffering (8) for Doing Right

Suffering leads to holiness, but not all suffering has this redemptive quality. Peter warns that Christians must only suffer according to God's will.

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. (1 Pet 4:15).
In these circumstances, suffering is what we deserve.
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? (1 Pet 2:20).
Peter reminds Christians that they should only suffer for doing good.
It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Pet 3:17).
The suffering to which we are called is suffering as Christians. We should be perfect in our behaviour, so there is no just cause for complaint against us (1 Pet 3:15, 16).