Friday, September 30, 2011

Fear and Terror

Fear and terror took hold of the church in the last few days, as prophecies of earthquakes and tsunami circulated among Christians. Now that the day of doom has passed with nothing happening, church leaders in Christchurch are angry with the women who released the words that started it all.

However, an important question is being missed. Why did Christians get caught up in this frenzy of fear and terror?

One reason is that thousands of spirits of fear have been able to get a foothold in the lives of Christians living in Christchurch. This did not happen when they read the prophecies and dreams. The spirits were already there. That is why the effect of the words has been so devastating. If fear and terror had not been stirred up by the spirit of fear, the response would have been different. The words and dreams were quite trivial and would have been ignored.

The spirit of fear gained a foothold during and following the earthquake. This raises an important question for the shepherds of the church in Christchurch. Why have fear and terror gained such a stronghold in the church? Why have these devouring spirits been able gain access to the people in their churches? Why have these spirits not been driven out?

If the problem is not dealt with, fear and terror will continue to be stirred by all sorts of different things, not just prophetic words. Fear really destroys faith, so this could hold the back the Kingdom, when the Spirit begins to move. See Discerning Seasons.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New Testament Prophets (5) - Great Divide

Prophets are the people most like to get a revelation of God’s purposes and plans, but most pastors do not have relationship with a reliable prophet who can shed light on the current darkness. We have a huge divide between the prophetic and the pastoral in this city that prevents the church from functioning at full capacity.

Most churches are led by pastors who see intercessors and prophetic people as problem and not a blessing. The fiasco over 28 September has confirmed their belief that these people are a nuisance who will do more harm than good, if given too much freedom. Pastors prefer to limit the prophetic to personal words to encourage individual believers given in a church meeting where the process can be controlled.

This truncation of the prophetic role means that church leaders do not know how to handle a prophetic warning to a church, a city or a nation. When prophecy goes beyond the personal, they want to control the process. Some leaders have suggested that all words should be submitted to them for testing before they are released.

I think it is unfortunate the way the prophecy has been distributed. It would have been a lot more beneficial of bring it to some of the church leaders and for them to pray as to an appropriate response and its distribution.

I believe that such a word should have been submitted to significant, recognised, godly leaders in the city.
Yet, the same leaders say that they tend to ignore most of the prophecies given to them, because they are rubbish. That might be true, but it is hard to see how the prophetic role can emerge when the process is controlled by people who are ambivalent about prophecy.

The other side of this problem is that people with a prophetic calling have mostly been squeezed out of the centre of church life and tend to live on the fringes where the battle is tougher and isolation leaves them vulnerable to deception. Many have experienced rejection, leaving a residue of frustration and bitterness. When prophetic people gather together without a pastoral influence, they tend to become hard and judgmental, which tinges their words with a harshness which grates on the pastors. This isolation and neglect leaves the church without a clear prophetic voice.

The biblical model for the leadership of the church is diversity of ministries submitted to each other. When evangelists gain control a church becomes a revolving door. When prophets gain control, the church skinks to a rigid righteous remnant. When pastors gain control, the church become soft and flabby. A healthy church needs each of these ministries operating in unity, by submitting to each other in love.

In the current tragedy in Christchurch, the church needed a clear trumpet call. Because the prophets are largely missing from the church, it got clatter and confusion. Every church needs both pastors and prophets to function effectively (see Pastors and Prophets). Until the prophetic role is integrated into the church, and the pastors and prophets come to unity, through submission to each other, confusions will continue to occur.

New Testament Prophets (4) - Confusion produces Fear

We have a serious problem in Christchurch. We have just gone through a huge calamity, but Christians do not know what is going. They have been taught that life has meaning and purpose, so they expect their leaders to be able to explain the meaning of the earthquake.

The problem is that most church leaders ducked for cover when they earthquake struck and quoted the dean who said that the earthquake was not an act of God, but just the earth doing what the earth does. This explanation let them off the hook for explaining why God had allowed an earthquake, but if left people confused. The earth doing its thing argument was helpful for some of the pastoral problems, as leaders did not have to explain why some Christians were killed and injured. It was just bad luck. The people who died were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Another problem made this worse. In the September earthquake, when no one was killed and only a few injured, Christian leaders called it as a miracle. But when nearly two hundred people were killed in the February earthquake, there was no explanation of why we did get another miracle. Only silence.

The lack of credible Christian explanations left a huge void of unanswered questions. Where was God? Why did he warn some people, but not others? If we could some warn people, why could he not prevent people from being killed? If he knew in advance that the earthquake was coming, why could he not prevent it from happening. Or did he choose to let it happen anyway? These are hard questions, but Christians expect the leaders who bring a word from God each week to provide some answers.

Without a clear trumpet call, the people get confused. The silence of Christian leaders meant that their people were left to look to find their own answers. When the message is unclear, the people get muddled and grab what they can. The dreams and voices circulating in Christchurch came from the fringes of the church where people have gone for insight, but they produced only fear and confusion.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Testament Prophets (3) - Everyone Can Prophecy

The cross and resurrection brought another major change. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured on everyone who believes. This changed everything, because now every Christian can hear the Holy Spirit speak. We no longer need a special group of people to tell us what God is saying. This shrinks the role of the prophets, because I do not need a prophet to tell me where to find my donkeys. If I need guidance about what to do, I should be able to hear the voice of the Spirit myself.

The other effect of the outpouring of the Spirit is that every Christian can prophesy. Peter explained this on the day of Pentecost.

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy (Acts 2:17).
This general ability to prophesy manifests in the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 12:10). With prophecy becoming more prevalent and widespread, the risk of poor quality prophecy is increased. This is why Paul gave clear guidance to the Corinthians about how this gift can be managed in away that minimises harm. 1 Corinthians 14 is not a re-definition of the role of the prophet as some writers have claimed. It provides guidelines on how prophecy should be managed in a situation where everyone, including young people, can prophesy. He suggests that people should take turns in prophesying to keep the process orderly. He also encourages the church prophecies to test all prophecies, and discard those that are faulty (1 Thes 5:19-22).

Paul’s letters focus on testing prophecies, not testing the people. There is no test that has to be met before someone can exercise the gift of prophecy, because this gift is available to everyone. On the other hand, because the gift is so open, it is necessary to test the prophetic words that are spoken to sort the chaff from the wheat.

The gift of prophecy is for edification and encouragement to build up the church (1 Cor 14:3). The gift of prophecy is not for admonition and correction. That is the responsibility of the prophets, because it is much tougher to speak challenging words without being harsh or proud.

Only those who have the appropriate character should be recognised in the ministry of the prophet. Jesus said that we would not the true prophets by the fruit of their service in their church. It takes time for fruit to emerge (Matt 7:15-20). Prophets are subject a tough character test, because they are in a role that can do great harm, if they are insecure or weak.

Every church will need admonition and correction from time to time. Therefore every church should have at least one person who is recognized and established in this role. These prophets must not be constrained to comfort prophecies by 1 Corinthians 14:3. They must be free to say whatever God wants said to the church, with the only constraint being to speak the truth in love.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Testament Prophets (2) - New Covenant

The cross and resurrection of Jesus did not cause the role of the prophet to cease. Agabus, Judas and Silas are referred to as a prophets, so the ministry continued (Acts 11:28; Acts 15:31). There is nothing in the New Testament to say that any aspect of the role has ceased.

Several things have changed. In Old Testament times, Israel was the people of the covenant. In New Testament times, the church is the people of the new covenant. The prophetic role of watching over the covenant continued, but their focus shifted to the new covenant and the church. The prophets are still responsible for watching over the church and warning it if it breaks the covenant of Jesus. This is not a doom and gloom ministry, because in contrast to OT Israel, the victory of the cross and the spirit means that the church mostly walks in blessing. However, there will be times when a church leaves God’s path and needs to be challenged by a prophet. John’s letters to the seven churches are examples of a prophetic challenge to a church that has lost the plot. This is still the responsibility of the prophets, but it should not be required too often, if the church is walking in the Spirit and seeking to serve Jesus.

One of the greatest threats to the NT church is persecution. The role of the NT prophets includes responsibility for encouraging the church through times of persecution and suffering. John’s letters to the seven churches are an example of this (Rev 3:21).

The role of prophesying to the people of the old covenant has been curtailed by the cross. Jesus himself gave the final prophesy to Israel warning of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 23:33-24:2). He warned that they would not get a prophetic word again for a long, long time.

Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Matt 23:38-39).
Being left without prophets is part of their desolation. All future prophets will be Christians, so if the Jews will not accept those who come in the name of Jesus, they will have no prophets (Micah 3:6). NT prophets will only get to speak freely to Israel when the Times of the Gentiles are coming to an end.

The role of prophesying to the other nations continues in NT times. God continues to determine the rising and falling of the nations.
He made all the nations…; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands (Acts 17:26).
When nations go sour, God often lets them collapse and die. Rome is an example. It eventually collapsed and disappeared. God’s role in this is clearer, if there are prophets warning the collapsing nation why things are falling apart. This role has been lacking for much of the New Testament age, so it needs to be restored.

Prophetic proclamation is the best way to remove a bad government. The OT prophets brought downs kings and rulers who had lost the plot. For example, Elijah's prophetic work led to the destruction of Ahab. Daniel prophesied the fall of Belshazzar of Babylon. John continued this role in the New Testament with his prophesy of the fall of Babylon the Great. We need to see more of the ministry from prophets in the New Testament age. If a Christian prophet had pronounced judgement against Saddam Hussein, releasing the power of God to remove him from office, this would probably have been far less painful for the Iraqi people than a ten year war.

Speaking to the nations is only a minor aspect of the prophetic role, so only a few of the more mature prophets will be called to the role of prophet to the nations. Most NT prophets will function within the church. Some will grow to be a prophet to their own nation, and a few of these will emerge as prophets to the nations.

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Testament Prophets (1) - Old Testament

Recent events have led to discussion about the role of prophets in the New Testament age. Some writers have suggested that the role of the OT prophets ended with the cross. They suggest that the New Testament prophets are limited to encouragement and exhortation. This view turns prophets into Good News Guys

Many church leaders fear the prophetic. They are happy for prophetic people to give personal words to people during church services, but want the leadership of the church to be immune from any prophetic challenge. This has truncated an important ministry and weakened the church. The quality of the prophets is critical for building the church on a solid foundation (Eph 2:20).
Old Testament Prophets

To sort this issue, we must clarify the role of the OT prophets. The common view is they were old men with beards, who went around speaking doom and gloom, but his is a misleading caricature.

The main role of the prophets is to speak for God. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit had not been poured out on God’s people, so only a few people operated under the anointing of the Spirit. Most people could not hear the Holy Spirit speaking, so they needed someone to tell them what God was saying. The prophets spoke about all aspects of life. Moses was a prophet, because he gave Israel the law (Deut 34:10). Samuel told Saul where to find his donkeys (1 Sam 9:8). Nathan challenged David, when he covered up his sin (1 Sam 12:1).

The dominant aspect of this role was to watch over the covenant. Whenever, Israel broke the covenant, the prophets would challenge them and warn of the consequence. Israel broke the covenant over and over again. This is why the prophets seemed to be full of doom and gloom. Israel was mostly in disobedience, and the prophets spent most of their time spelling warning of the consequence of this disobedience. They could not be nice, because the prognosis for Israel was usually bad.

A minor role of the more mature prophets was to speak to the nations around Israel. God raises them up and brings them down to accomplish his purposes. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all prophesied to nations like Egypt and Babylon. They did not speak to these nations in terms of the covenant, because they were not under it. However, because these nations were created by God, they are accountable to him. The prophets warned that if they slipped too far into evil, God would have to bring them down. However, speaking to the other nations was a minor part of the prophet’s role.

Christians often assume that words of the OT prophets were perfect and had to be obeyed without question. This is not true. The scriptures contain the prophet’s best words. They were preserved, because the community assessed these words to be true and reliable. Those that were a mixture or wrong were forgotten quickly, so we do not have access to them. The OT prophets could make mistakes. Samuel was wrong in some of the things he did. Elisha got things wrong too. One prophet deliberately lied (1 Kings 13:18). Obedience to prophecy was not mandatory. Every word had to be tested, although this was harder, for those without the anointing of the Spirit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Third Big One?

A warning of a Third Big Earthquake in Christchurch shared by Kathy Robinson (KR), an intercessor living in North Canterbury, is causing a lot of confusion and fear in Christchurch. I take prophecy seriously, so I have prayed about what this means. Here is my take on it.

I believe that KR did hear from God. She was right about a third earthquake, but wrong about the timing and some of the interpretation around her revelation.

We should not forget that Christchurch has already experienced three big earthquakes, in September 2010 (7.2), February 2010 (6.3) and June 2011(6.3) Some of the people in my neighbourhood have had to shovel the silt of liquefaction out of their homes three different times.

The third earthquake in June was the same strength as the one in February, but in some parts of Eastern Christchurch, it did more damage. The June quake left worse devastation in the CBD, as many of the buildings that owners had hoped to repair received further damage meaning they have had to be demolished. Hopes that the cathedral could be repaired were smashed.

I would not classify KR’s revelation as a prophecy. It is more a series of words of knowledge, received in response to questions she asked God. Asking questions of God is a good way to get understanding.

Most Christians would find it hard to know what to do with a revelation like this one, so KR deserves credit for the way she handled it. She gave the word to friends to pray over, before handing it to leaders of the intercession movement to test. The fear arose when other Christians began to hand her word around as if it was a validated prophecy (see Prophets and Prayers).

KRs first word of knowledge was received on 25 Sept 2010, a few weeks after the first earthquake.

One hundred and fifty days!
She seems to have been spot on with this, as it points to the 23 February 2011, the day after the second big quake.

After the February 2011 earthquake, she got a second revelation.
There is more yet to come.
She then asked when, and got one word,
This seems fine to me. After the February earthquake, many Christians felt that it was not all over and that there was another big one to come.

However, being dissatisfied with the level of detail that God has given is risky, because a number of days later, KR sought another word and was given a specific date. This date does not ring true withme. God cannot be inconsistent. He would not give a broad time spread, and then change his mind and give a precise date a few days later. Therefore, I assume that the correct word on timing was that it would happen in a few months.

We should note that other people getting the same date does not prove that a date is from God. The enemy can send the same fiery dart against a number of people (Eph 6:16). The court prophets supporting the King of Israel often had the same word, but they were usually wrong (1 Kings 22:13) (see Dreams of Disaster).

If God said in February that there would be another big earthquake in a few months time, this was a true word, as it was fulfilled when the third big earthquake struck in June 2011.

A few days after getting the date, KR received another revelation,
water and drownings.
This probably came from God, but it has been misinterpreted. Many have interpreted it literally as a tsunami, but this is not right. I believe these words should be interpreted symbolically. Being swamped by water is usually a symbol for being spiritually or emotionally overwhelmed. Drownings can represent the crushing of the human spirit and the choking of hope. Psalm 18:16-17 and Psalm 69:14-15 are examples.

This is what happened after the third earthquake. After the February quake, people got straight out to remove the silt from their backyards. It was hard hot work, but their words were full of hope. “This thing will not beat us. We are resilient people, so we will come through this stronger.” The situation in Eastern Christchurch was totally different after the June quake. People were slow to take on the removal of silt. It seemed like they just did not have the energy to deal with it. They spoke words of despair, not hope. “We have had more than we can take. We cannot cope with any more”. Self-pity emerged quickly, and sometimes turned into complaint.

A thirty something man whom I met on the street looked like someone who would usually be afraid of nothing, but he had big tears in his eyes as he spoke about the uncertainty and fears for his family’s future.

Having seen the effect that the June earthquake had on the people that went through it, I cannot accept some of the scriptures and context that KR put round her words of knowledge. She said,
The impression I received was that the people’s hearts are so hardened that it would become necessary yet again to bring judgment before change would happen.
This assessment sounds like it was made by someone living outside Christchurch. It does not match with what I see here. In the eastern suburbs of Christchurch, where the effects of the earthquake are worst, hearts are not hard. People are worried, frightened, confused, angry, hurt and scared. You can see it on their faces, and when they speak, the stuff in their hearts comes out of their mouths. These are not hard hearts that need to be broken by judgment. They are broken hearts that need to see the love of Jesus and receive the peace of the Holy Spirit (see Hard Hearts).

Concern about prophecies of earthquakes has absorbed a huge amount of spiritual energy. God has things for his people to do in this city. We must be careful that we do not get distracted from his purposes by earthquakes and rumours of earthquakes.

I believe that the revelation received by KR was fulfilled when the third big earthquake struck in June. We will continue to experience aftershocks in Christchurch, but God has not said that we will have another big one. At the end of September, I will be the Eastern Christchurch going about my life as usual. I will try to serve Jesus and walk in the leading of the Spirit. I encourage everyone to follow the leading of the Spirit, not the voice of fear.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dreams of Disaster

Several dreams about another earthquake and tsunami are doing the rounds in Christchurch. They are causing a lot of fear and confusion.

Christians should understand that dreams can come from different sources.

  1. Most dreams come of our own minds and memories. They are often a mash-up of our past experiences and current emotions, but seem to be real because they are staged in surrounding that are familiar to us. During times of stress, our dreams sometimes become more dramatic and disturbing. Some people experience terrible nightmares during times of trouble. Most dreams are more normal and are quickly forgotten.

  2. God can speak to us through our dreams. Joseph is well known for dreaming and interpreting dreams. There were four dreams associated with the birth of Jesus. His life was saved by a dream (Matt 2:12). Overall, dreams from God are relatively rare. I have had thousands of dreams during my lifetime, but there would only be a handful that I have thought might come from God. We can also assume that most dreams do not come from God.

  3. Angels can speak into our dreams. An angel spoke to Joseph in a dream, before and after the birth of Jesus (Matt 1:20; Matt 2:13).

  4. If angels can speak to us while we are dreaming, then evil spirits probably can too. They could sometimes push a false thought into our dreams, but this should be rare for Christians under God’s protection. Saul was vexed by an evil spirit (1 Sam 16:14). I presume that it tormented him day and night, but this only happened after he lost the blessing of God.

Christians should be alert for God speaking in a dream, but they should also be aware that most dreams are just dross from our minds. Therefore, a dream should be tested, before it is taken as guidance or revelation.
  • When a dream sticks in our minds until the morning, we should not automatically assume that it has come from God. That may be the case, but it is more likely that it has come out of own mind. We should pray about the source of the dream and get the witness of the spirit, before deciding that it has come from God.

  • The fact that a dream is dramatic or disturbing does not mean that it is from God. During times of trouble and crisis, frightening and disturbing dreams become more common, but it does not mean anything. Dreams of falling from a height, being overwhelmed by water, or being chased by something dreadful are very common. These dreams do not mean anything, but are just a reflection of the dreamer’s situation.

  • The fact that two people have the same dream does not mean that it comes from God. They may have had similar experiences, or been tricked by the enemy.

  • Evil spirits can pretend to be angels. Therefore, a dream in which an angel speaks can be a deception. Even dreams in which angels teach should be tested.

Once that it is confirmed that a dream is from God, it must be interpreted carefully. Some dreams are literal, but most are symbolic. Pharaoh’s dream of the fat and thin cows is an example (Gen 41:1-4). He understood that the cows were not real and that he needed someone to interpret the dream. Over the last twenty years, a number of Christians have had dreams of big waves sweeping across New Zealand. Most have interpreted these waves as symbolising waves of spiritual renewal. Interpreting dreams that are symbolic as if they were literal is a common cause of error.

When describing a dream, the description of the dream should be kept separate from the interpretation. These two things often get mixed together, which produces confusion. I have written more on this at Publishing Dreams.

Christians should be particularly careful about dreams that circulate on the internet.
  • Not everything on the internet is true. The web is a mixture, like everything in life.

  • The fact that a dream is on the internet does not mean it is from God. Most dreams are human.

  • Things on the internet often get copied and circulated in a different form by different people. This can make it seem like many people have had the same revelation, when they have really come from the same source.

  • Christians should be careful about attributions on the internet that are vague. A statement saying “a well-respected pastor in a spirit-filled church has confirmed this is true” means almost nothing, because it cannot be validated.

  • Everyone putting stuff on the internet is not good. Some words that circulate have are deliberately written in order to deceive. Christians should be alert for hoaxes.

Dreams can be a powerful means of communication. God can use dreams to get us thinking about something that we have been ignoring. Christians should be aware that he may speak in this way. I suspect that a good many dreams from God have been ignored by the people who really need to receive them.

On the other hand, Christians should be alert and test everything that they receive, especially from the internet.

With regard to the dream that is circulating, the bullying words within it suggest that it is not from God. He would not threaten,
those who do not listen will perish.
Jesus said something quite different (John 3:16-17). I sense that the dream is a description of what the enemy would like to do, but is unable to do.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

RWC (2) - Little Brother

Rugby brings out a strange side of the New Zealand character. We seem to have a “little brother” attitude that shapes our thinking and behaviour. A little brother often has an unhealthy need to beat his older brother at something. Efforts to beat an older brother cannot lead to fulfilment. They are often destructive, because they distract little brother from becoming the person that he is meant to be.

In New Zealand, this little brother attitude creates a need to take on much bigger nations and prove that we are better than them. We were taught at school that during the two world wars, New Zealand soldiers were better than the Australian, British and American soldiers that fought alongside them (a dubious honour, if it was true). These days, the “small brother” insecurity mostly manifests through sport. We want to win the Rugby World Cup to prove that can be as good as other nations, despite our small size. The odd thing about this desire to be the best in the world is that only few nations play rugby, so winning the Rugby World Cup does not prove anything.

God has a purpose for New Zealand, and it is not to be the greatest rugby nation in the world. God wants to establish his Kingdom here, so we can be a light to the nations. We will only find peace as a people, when we fulfil that calling. Unfortunately, the desire to prove we the best in the world at Rugby is distracting us from our true calling, so even if we do win we will not be satisfied. Instead of trying to prove ourselves to the world, we should focus on being the people that God has called us to be.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

RWC (2) - Cost Benefit

The New Zealand government has contributed millions of the cost of running this international event. As always happens when the hosting of an international event is being considered, they trotted out several economists with claims that the return to the country (whatever that means) will be far greater than the money spent by the government. These economists try to out do each other, as if producing a bigger number confirms their superior understanding of the economy. Of course, they have a good incentive to produce a good numbers, so they will be paid to make estimates in the future.

These numbers are just guesses. They leave out many of the real costs and ignore most of the opportunity costs. However, they cannot be proved wrong, because the impact on an economy of an international sporting event cannot be accurately measured.

Some businesses in the hospitality and tourist sectors will gain huge benefit, but I would be surprised if the Rugby World Cup brings lasting long-term benefit to the economy. The stadiums that have been built or extended represent capital that may never be fully utilised again, but local communities will be paying off the loans for the next twenty years.

Friday, September 16, 2011

RWC (1)

Most of the world has not noticed, but the Rugby World Cup is being hosted in New Zealand over the next month. Rugby football is only played seriously in a handful of nations, so this not truly a world scale event. Some of the countries represented, like Georgia, have only a small number of rugby players. In others, like the United Sates, rugby is a trivial minority sport.

I am not a rugby enthusiastic, so it might be a long month.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hard Hearts?

One word warning of another earthquake for Christchurch uses these words to give the reason.

The impression I received was that the people’s hearts are so hardened that it would become necessary yet again to bring judgment before change would happen.
This assessment sounds like it was made by someone living outside Christchurch. It does not match with what I see here. In the eastern suburbs of Christchurch, where the effects of the earthquake are worst, hearts are not hard. People are worried, frightened, confused, angry, hurt and scared. You can see it on their faces, and when they speak, the stuff in their hearts comes out of their mouths. These are not hard hearts.

People have not turned back to God, but I would not expect that, because most do not know him. They do not know much about the church, other than what they hear in the news. A few have heard the gospel, but they have not seen it being lived in their midst.

When we got together with some Christian to pray for Christchurch, one person got the following picture.
A group of Christians were gathered in a park for worship. It looked like an outdoor church service. These people worshipping were surrounded by a fence with vertical iron A great crowd of people were outside the fence looking in. They wanted to get in. Some were hanging onto the bars and peering through at the people worshipping. Although they were on the outside they looked like they were in prison. The people worshipping had not seen them, and did not realise they were there. Then over one side, I saw Jesus moving around among the people outside the fence.
This suggests that the obstacle is not with the people of the world, but with the church. It is so preoccupied with good activities that it is not aware of the all broken people in the city longing for peace and hope. God does not need to send judgment to bring change in Christchurch. He needs to wake up the church to live out the gospel among the people of the city.

Monday, September 12, 2011


According to one of the prophetic words swirling around Christchurch, a another serious earthquake is going to strike Christchurch on a specified day in September. I believe this was a call to intercessors to pray and not a prophetic word, but it raises an interesting question. Many Christians are planning to leave town for the day to be safe, but is that the right response.

If all Christians were to leave the city, they would take the Holy Spirit with them. Well, he would not be totally absent from the city, but without out the body of Christ to work through, he would be relatively powerless in the city. Who would benefit? The forces of evil would still be present in the city, so they would have a much free hand to work while the Christians are absent.

I would be sad if a revelation that God gave to encourage his people to pray for the good of the city led to evil getting a greater freedom in the city, even if just for a day.

If Christchurch does have another bad earthquake, I hope that Christians will be there to serve and support those who suffer.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Prophets and Intercessors (3) - Confusion in Christchurch

In Christchurch, we have a problem. A number of revelations of a third massive earthquake that God has given to intercessors are circulating as prophecies about the future. This is creating confusion, because they contain no guidance to Christians about how to respond. There is no call to repentance for the people of the world or condition that must be met to avert the disaster. This is not surprising, because that was not their purpose.

I hope the intercessors are doing their job and standing in prayer against the plans of the enemy that God has revealed to them. If the intercessors and are fulfilling their calling, these events will not take place. God has revealed these things to the intercessors, because he does not want them to happen.

If God is giving warnings about events that are going to happen, I hope the prophets are listening and seeking guidance about his plans for his people and asking what changes must take place to avert the disaster.

Clear Voice
One reason we have this problem is the dearth of the prophetic voice in Christchurch. The result is that most Christians are uncertain about the cause of the earthquakes and whether they have any spiritual significance.

Most of the commentary on the earthquakes has come from pastors, and their most common interpretation has been that the earthquakes were just the earth doing what the earth does from time to time. They were just natural events without any spiritual significance. This view worked well for providing pastoral care to people who had lost homes or family members, as it puts issues of guilt and guidance out of scope. Unfortunately, many other Christians find this explanation inadequate and are uncertain about how they should respond to these events. They see Jesus applying spiritual significance to physical disasters (Luke 13:1-5) and want the same for their time (See Causes of the Christchurch Earthquake for my crack at this).

The situation has been further confused by other voices, mostly from outside the city, declaring that the earthquakes are God’s judgment against Christchurch. These people claim that God hates the sin in the city and is going to keep on bashing it until the people repent. Most Christians here are uneasy about this view, because the people of Christchurch do not seem to be any worse than thousands of other cities around the world that have not been struck down by God. They are slightly embarrassed when God is portrayed as a vindictive people whacker.

These things have produced a thirst for revelation that has not been quenched by what has been offered so far.

Where there is no revelation, the people are left naked (Prov 29:18).
Unfortunately, scraps from tables of the intercessors will not satisfy this hunger for revelation. Our problem is lack of revelation. We should be praying that God will release a clear prophetic voice in this city and that we may have better understanding of God’s purposes for the city.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Prophets and Intercessors (2) - Revelation to Intercessors

God often reveals the plans of the enemy to intercessors, so they can stand against them in the Spirit and prevent the evil from occurring.

  • God is showing them something that will not happen, if they are doing their job.

  • These revelations can be scary, so intercession is not for the fainthearted.

  • Intercessors should guard their revelations carefully and not hand them around casually (Matt 7:6).

  • Intercessors should share and test their revelations with other intercessors who are strong enough to handle the revelation.

  • When these revelations are circulated widely among Christians, they create confusion within the church. Even if the intercessors do their job and prevent the event from taking place, the enemy uses it for evil by inspiring fear.

  • A revelation given to inspire intercession has several characteristics that can be confusing to other Christians.

    • They usually do not take place, so Christians assume the revelation was wrong, without understanding that it was not fulfilled, because the intercessors did their job.

    • They are sometimes symbolic. Ezekiel saw the sun, moon and stars going dark. This was not fulfilled literally, but was a description of Egypt’s Pharaohs being defeated by the Emperor of Babylon (Ezekiel 32:7). Intercessors need to be skilled in interpreting these symbolic messages.

    • Intercessors are often called to pray against evil attacks that God does not want to happen. In this situation, the revelation they receive, will not include a call to repentance, or specify conditions that must be met to prevent its fulfilment, as that is is not the purpose it was given.

    • God does not give guidance about how to live through the evil events he reveals to intercessors, because he does not intend them to happen. When these revelations get into the hands of other Christians, they get confused, because they do not know what to do. The revelation is there with nothing around it.

    • Most of the revelations received by intercessors will be things that God’s wants to do. They will happen if the intercessors pray seriously. Intercessors will need to be skilled in discerning between things that God wants to accomplish and the plans of the enemy that he wants thwarted.

Merged Roles
The role of prophet and intercessor sometimes merges in one person. When this happens, the person should be very careful to be clear about what they are doing. When they receive a revelation about the future, they should seek guidance from God about whether is for the prayer closet or the prophetic platform. They should also sort out if it is something God wants to do or a plan of the enemy that he wants to foil.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Prophets and Intercessors (1) - Revelation to Prophets

Intercessors pray:

  • They release the Holy Spirit and the angels to do the Fathers will on earth.

  • They stand together to resist the attacks of the enemy on behalf of a church, a city or a nation.

Prophets speak:
  • They explain God’s purpose for churches, cities and nations to his people.

  • Some warn God’s people of danger and explain how they should respond to it.

  • A few speak to the world and warn of judgment and describe how it can be averted (Jonah and Nineveh).

Intercessors and Prophets will sometimes receive a revelation of coming disasters, but the purpose will be different.

Revelation to Prophets
Prophets will sometimes receive a revelation of a future disaster.
  • They are called to speak to God’s people and explain how God wants them to respond during the crisis. Following this guidance will lead to blessing.

    • In some situations, they might need to flee to survive.

    • In other situations, God will want them to stand their ground and suffer in the face of evil.

  • A few prophets will be called to speak to a city or nation and warn of a danger that is coming as a consequence of sin. When they do this, they should also call the city or nation to repentance. They should also give guidance to God’s people about how they should respond.

  • The revelations received by prophets will mostly be conditional. If the city or nation responds, appropriately, the event will be held back. The conditions for this should be clearly specified.

  • Prophets should not be speaking out words about the future, just to show that God is clever. He does not play that game.

  • Prophets speak with purpose. Without guidance, conditions or a challenge, a prophet is just a clanging gong.

  • When prophets receive a revelation of trouble in the future, they should not speak immediately, but test the word with other people that they trust.

  • The prophet should also pray about when, how and to whom the word should be spoken. They should pray about what God wants his people to do and how he wants the city or nation to respond. Without these things, the prophetic word is not complete.

  • God shows prophets things that will happen and explains what the people should do.

  • For prophets, explaining what people must do is as important as warning of what will happen.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Money is a Moral Issue

Most economic problems are moral problems, not technical ones. Money is a good example. Many economists treat money as a technical problem that needs a technical solution, but money is really a moral issue. The key to sound money is to outlaw all immoral behaviour from the banking system.

When I get paid, my salary goes into my cheque account. I do not want to lend my salary to the bank, because I intend to spend most of my pay in the fortnight before I next get paid. I want to be able to spend that money whenever I choose, for whatever I want to buy, so I choose a demand deposit. When my salary goes into the bank, I have not transferred the ownership of that money to the bank. The money is mine. It does not belong to the bank.

The current accounting process is that the bank records the cash it has received as an asset and records it responsibility to me as a liability. This is wrong. The cash does not belong to the bank. It belongs to me. The cash will be an asset on my balance sheet, so it should not be an asset on the bank’s accounts at the same time. An asset cannot have two owners.

Consider a parallel example. If I am going out of town for a while, I may engage a warehousing company to store my dining suite until I return. The warehouse will charge a fee for providing this service. When my dining suite goes into the warehouse, its ownership does not change. The dining suite still belongs to me. The warehouse owner cannot do what he likes with the table. He cannot bring it out and use it when he has guests for dinner. He cannot dance on the table top or use it for playing table tennis. The warehouse owner cannot decide how the table will be used, because he has no ownership rights to it. He has a duty to care for my dining table in the way specified in the contract. If I decide not to return, I can write to the warehouse and ask that the table be delivered to my daughter and the chairs to one of my friends. The warehouse owner will do this, provided I pay the cost of transport. He cannot refuse to carry out my request, because he has relatives staying and is using the table. If this happened, I would accuse him of misappropriating my dinning suite. If he has moved it to his own home, I could accuse him of theft. Everyone would understand that he has done something immoral.

If the word got out about what he had done, his warehouse would soon be empty, because people would stop trusting him. The service that he offers is skill at caring well for things that belong to other people. This service only has value to customers, if they can trust him to provide the care that he has promised. He is really selling trust, so if he proves to be untrustworthy, his service has no value and people will be unwilling to pay for it.

The warehouse owner does not record the things stored in his warehouse on his balance sheet. The only asset on his balance will be the warehouse that he owns. He does not include the contents of the warehouse, because he does not own them. They are not his assets. The only way that they will appear on his balance sheet is through a contingent liability for inadvertent damage that might be done to something that is in his care.

This is the heart of the problem with the modern banking system. Banks claim ownership of the cash that has been deposited by their customers. They record this cash as an asset on their balance sheet. This is problematic because the cash now has two owners. The result is bank runs when everyone tries to withdraw their money.

The technical solution to this problem is central banks as lenders of last resort and banks that are too big to fail.

The moral solution to this problem is banks that behave like an honest warehouse. They will keep an inventory of all the money being stored and the identity of the owners. This should be separate from their financial accounts. The money stored should not be able to creep onto the bank’s asset register.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Controlling Interest Rates

During the middle ages, the church attempt to set the just price for bread. Their efforts failed, because they either set the price too high and created a glut or set it too low and created shortages. They eventually gave up.

Governments used to control prices from time to time, but have now given up for the same reason. The last bastion of price control is the interest rate. Most governments still attempt to control the interest rate.

The interest rate is the most important price in the economy. It is the price of the future. It should reflect the value that people place on the future. If people have confidence in the future, they will not need much compensation for saving, so interest rates will be low. On the other hand, if people have no hope for the future, the interest rates will be high. A future orientation will reduce interest rates; a present orientation will cause high interest rates.

Giving central banker’s control of this important price is a mistake. One problem is that they do not have enough information to get the price right. Most of the time, they set it too high or too low.

The other problem is that controlling the interest rate is a very blunt instrument. When using interest rates to slow the economy, central bankers hurt all businesses, not just those that are least efficient. Higher interest rates prevent efficient businesses from expanding and may cause some to shift overseas. Exporters are often hurt by the consequential rise in the currency. On the other hand, reducing interest rates to speed up the economy encourages all businesses to expand, when it would be better if only the more efficient ones grew. Worse still, the low interest rates can cause distortions in the economy, by encouraging speculation in fashionable assets.

Most of the time, central bankers are taking actions to fix up problems caused by their own mistakes. Allowing them to slow the entire the economy to eliminate a problem they have caused is like giving the key of your house to the pickpocket who stole your watch.

Artificially lower interest rates cause distortion in the economy. The housing boom was caused by central bankers setting the interest rate too low. A housing boom cannot cause inflation. If people become obsessed with owning houses, the price of houses will go up. However, those who are spending their money on houses will have to stop buying other things, so the demand for those things will fall. If the person buying the house borrows the money, the person that they borrow from has stopped buying something. A housing boom can only turn into inflation, if the government supports it by increasing the money in circulation. By setting interest rates very low after the Dotcom crash, the US Federal Reserve fed the property boom, turning it into a bubble that caused the Global Financial Crisis.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Three Mountains (15) - Big Push Down

The Kingdom of God will collapse the wealth mountain. Wealth will pushed down and spread around to local families for the benefit of local communities.

When Christians get serious about dealing with poverty, we will have to find ways to share capital. Interest free loans are one way of transferring capital, but we will need to find others that work in the modern world.

Jacob and Laban were both shifty operators, but they do provide an example one person helping another to build up their capital. When Jacob went to live with Laban he owned no capital. Laban capitalised Jacob's wages by paying him with breeding ewes. Jacob was able to build up his own flock, without neglecting Laban’s flock. Jacob also learned how to care for his flock. This was an early win-win situation.

Christian business operators could look for ways to help some of their employees build up their own capital. Shares for salary is one possibility, but it would better to provide employees with capital that would supplement their skills and equip them to start their own businesses.

Christians should not hand out money and property willy nilly. Deacons have an important role in ensuring that wealth is not wasted. They will direct capital to those who could use it wisely. They will teach poor people how to live carefully and productively.

Many Christians are looking for a great wealth transfer. They have not seen it, because they are looking in the wrong place. The big wealth transfer flows down the wealth mountain.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Three Mountains (14) - Solutions to Inequality

Inequality of income becomes a festering sore the weaken society. Secular societies have come up with two solutions to inequality.

  1. The most popular solution to inequality is progressive taxation. This solution is immoral. There is not moral basis for confiscating the wealth of the rich and giving it to the poor. The other problem with this solution is that progressive taxation destroys many of the incentives that have made free-market capitalism so productive.

  2. The other popular solution is revolution: shoot the rich and let the poor grab what they can. This solution is immoral and destructive. Revolution destroys the productive capacity of a society, so it generally makes everyone worse off.

Secular solutions to inequality have failed. The Bible provides two solutions.
  1. In Old Testament times, the main form of capital was land. The Jubilee laws ensured that land remained reasonably evenly distributed across the entire population. If a family became poor and sold their land to settle debts, the purchaser of the land was required to return it to the original owner in the jubilee year. This mean that the distribution of income generated wealth was distributed evenly again at the beginning of each new generation.

  2. The New Testament brought an even better solution to the problem of inequality. Acceptance of the gospel of Jesus leads to a great outpouring of giving that can counteract the flow of wealth from the bottom to the top. The gospel creates a continuous voluntary Jubilee.

Paul explained God’s will.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality (2 Cor 8:13).
God does not want those who have much to get more and those who little to get less. He prefers the opposite; that everyone should have what they need, and no one should have more than they need.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Three Mountains (13) - Wealth

Free market capitalism has solved the production problem. It allowed human initiative and inventiveness to flourish. The accumulation of capital has massively increased human productivity. Free trade has supported a greater division of labour. These factors have massively increased the wealth of the western world. We have moved from a life of subsistence to a world of prosperity in a couple of centuries.

There are now thousands of high wealth individuals in the world. They hold a huge share of the wealth that is produced in the world.

The problem with free market capitalism than wealth tends to be concentrated in the hands of a few.
  1. Efficient entrepreneurs are rewarded with increasing wealth. That is as it should be. Many use the increase in wealth to expand their enterprise.

  2. Wealth flows to those who already have wealth. Those who inherit wealth will find it much easier to increase their wealth than those with none. Wealth begats wealth.

  3. The corrupt, crafty and unscrupulous will often do even better. They will often manipulate and swindle the less misfortunate to defraud them for their own benefit.

  4. When wealthy people collude with political rulers, the flow of wealth to the rich and powerful is really boosted.

  5. Some wealth flows down to those at the bottom, but the flow up is far greater.

  6. When governments produce economic depressions, the poor suffer most.

Secular capitalism increases the wealth of most people in society, but it also produces increased inequality.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Three Mountains (12) - Risk is Real

Risk is unavoidable for people who are finite and free. God has made us free, so we have to make decisions. We are finite, so do not have perfect information on which to base our decisions. Hindsight is more perfect, so it proves many of our decisions wrong. An important aspect of decision-making is minimising the risk of bad consequences.

Risk cannot be eliminated, but it can be transferred to others.

  • Insurance is tool for minimising the risk carried by one person, by sharing it between a much larger group.

  • Limited liability transfers some of the risk of business failure from the owners to the clients of the business.

  • Financial derivatives can be used as tool for transferring risk from one institution to another.

  • Deposit insurance shifts risk from the banks to taxpayers.

Governments attempt to eliminate risk, but they actually transfer it to other people. Their regulations often encourage people and institutions to ignore risk.

The Global Financial Crisis was the result of bad judgement based on failure to understand risk. This foolishness was widespread throughout the economic and political system (see Credit Crunch Characters).
  • Households took on massive risk by paying ridiculous prices for houses, because they assumed that house prices would keep up going forever.

  • Households took on big mortgages assuming rising prices eliminated the risk.

  • Governments encouraged banks to ignore risk and give mortgages to people who could not afford them.

  • Banks assumed that insurance against default had eliminated the risk, so they purchased these financial instruments as if they were risk free when in reality, they had swapped one form of risk for another.

  • Financial institutions bought CDOs, assuming that clever mathematical models had eliminated all risk.

  • Investment banks boosted their profits by being levered up to thirty to one, but ignored the risk of a decline in asset values.

  • The risk of a large monoline insurance company failing was ignored.

  • The risk of that credit ratings agencies might be wrong was wrong.

Foolishness and stupidity were rampant in the financial system, but good times make fools appear wise, so risk was totally ignored.

Foolishness cannot be eliminated regulation. Regulations cannot stop foolish behaviour. The only cure is for people and institutions to get a better understanding of their risks and make mitigation.

Better banking is a key. Two questions should be asked before a loan is made.
  • Will the borrower be able to pay the interest and repay the loan when it comes due?

  • What assets is the borrower offering as collateral for the loan?

These questions have been forgotten over the last decade, but they will become more important again. To get finance, businesses and households that demonstrate an ability to make the repayments will be able.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Three Mountains (11) - Different Ways

Different ways of doing business will emerge in the kingdom of God.

  • Giving
  • Try before you buy
  • Pay what you can afford
  • Pay what you owe
  • Pay what it is worth to you (give up economic rent).
  • Integrity in advertising
  • Changed Production (No military industrial complex)