Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Good News

The world needs good news.

God created a beautiful world and gave it to humans to care for. They knew it would go best if they did things God’s way, but they had freedom, and they wanted to try it out.

They decided they would choose between doing thing God’s way and doing their own thing. The problem was that when they did their own thing, they were tricked by the spiritual powers of evil and surrendered the authority over the earth that God had given to them.

The powers of evil got control over the earth, so from that time on, the world has often been troubled and broken.

Although he had been rejected, God did not give up on humans, or his world. He wanted the world back, but the powers of evil demanded a high price.
The good news is that God became a man so he could come into the world. Jesus offered to die to buy back the stolen world.

The power of evil agreed, but they were being tricky of course, because they believed that once Jesus died, they would not need to hand the world back to God.

But God was too smart. He foiled their evil plan by raising Jesus from the dead. The spiritual powers of evil who controlled the world for so long were defeated.

Anyone who surrenders to Jesus has been delivered from the powers of evil. But they are still tricky. When people do their own thing, they lose God’s protection and their lives become troubled and broken.

The good news is that they can switch allegiance to Jesus at any time.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Republic?

Scott Adams has an interesting comment about the government leaks and media hostility to Donald Trump.

I also think we are seeing with the recent leaks the first phase of Mutually Assured Destruction of our government. The leaks will destroy Trump if they continue. But if that happens, no Democrat and no anti-Trump Republican will ever be able to govern in the future. Payback is guaranteed. The next President to sit in the White House will be leaked to the point of ineffectiveness. And that’s how the Republic dies.
A divided nation will be unhappy whoever is President.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Church Season

After I had completed my theological studies, I was invited to be the minister of a Presbyterian church at Waikaka Valley in Southland. It was a rural parish near Gore. Most of the parishioners were farmers, so I felt comfortable with them and understood the seasons of their lives.

When I arrived in this parish, a verse of scripture really spoke to me.

See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain (Ex 25:40).
It is quoted in Heb 8:5. I probably found it there.

I knew that I needed to do everything according to God’s pattern. The problem was that I did not have a revelation of what that pattern should be. I had to work with what was already established, so I took on the traditional pastor role.

I enjoyed the preaching and teaching aspect of being a minister. People responded well to my messages, and appreciated what they learnt. However, I struggled with most other aspects of ministry, especially providing pastoral care for grieving and hurting people. The only thing that saved me was that most farmers are resilient, so they rarely go to a minister for help. I did not feel like a leader, but I was expected to be one.

I felt like I was expected to be skilled in many tasks, but was only skilled in a few of them. I was expected to be a Jack of All Trades, but master of only one. This frustration forced me to go to the scriptures. I knew it was not just me that was wrong. I realised that there was something wrong with the ministry that I was trying to do, too. So I decided to study the New Testament and see if I could find out how ministry was supposed to work in the church. I guess I was looking for God’s pattern.

What I found was astonishing. I discovered a variety of ministries that God needed in his church. They needed to be committed to each other and serving the body. I discovered the key ministry is the elder.

I preached what I had discovered in a series of eight sermons. They were quite radical, so I did not know how they would be received. I needn’t have worried, because the farmers loved them. They thought they were very sensible. One of them said, “You really need to put these sermons together into a booklet, so other people can read them”. Thanks Geoffrey Lietze.

I took his advice and I put them together in a little booklet called “The Bride of Christ”. I got a couple of thousand printed, but they disappeared like hotcakes. There was no internet back then on which to promote them, so news about the booklet mostly spread by word of mouth.
People who read the booklet wrote that the Spirit witnessed with the message. Some said that God had been saying something similar to them. I am not sure that many put it into practice, though.

A few years later, I realised that some parts of the booklet, were not clear, and that people had not understood the message. So I decided to rewrite the messages to make the meaning clearer. God told me to take all the stuff that was negative about the church out so it did not distract from sharing a clear vision. I put in several diagrams to help make the message clearer. This new revised book is called Being Church Where We Live. It is the message of my eight sermons to farmers made clearer.

When my wife was typing out the sermons for the original booklet, she said, “How can you be a minster of the church when you believe this stuff?” Initially, I did not see the inconsistency, but eventually I was convicted to practice what I preached. So in 1984, I resigned from the ministry and we moved our family to Christchurch, leaving work and home behind. God was good and provided for us in amazing ways during that change of season.

Being Church Where We Live is the most important thing I have written. It is the foundation on which everything else sits. The other writing that I have done about politics, economics, God’s plan for history, and the Kingdom of God, does not make sense if this book is not understood. They will not be practical, if they are not built on the foundation of Being Church.

More about Being Church Where We Live.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Task for this Season

I grew up on a farm beside the Pareora River in South Canterbury. It was a marvellous life, so I left school early to become a farmer. After a couple of years working on the farm, I realise that I did not have the strength and stamina that farming needs.

I was really concerned about the poverty and suffering rampant throughout the world. The problems seemed to be economic and political, so I decided to go to university and study political science and economics. By the time, I had completed four years study, I realised that I was digging a dry well. These disciplines did not have the answers to the problems that worried me.

While growing up, our family had gone to church every Sunday, but for me it was just a habit. When I reached university and studied philosophy, I decided that I was an atheist. However, I found it is hard to be an honest atheist, because life loses meaning and purpose. So I constructed a safe philosophical god that suited me.

While I was studying for a Masters degree in economics, I had a deep encounter with the living God. He said, “I am who I am. You are trusting in an empty box. If you want to follow me, you need to accept me as I am”. I surrendered to him and decided I would live by his Word and Spirit.

A few months later, I had an exam for a paper on comparative economics. The lecturer was a staunch socialist. Full of my newfound faith, I wrote in my paper that Marx has no solution to the problems of mankind and that Jesus is the answer. I gave a similar response in a second exam paper.

Surprisingly, I passed the degree with excellent grades. But they must have decided to tackle the problem, because one of my lecturers asked to meet with me. He acknowledged that He was an atheist. He said that he could not understand it, but he admitted that my faith seemed to be real.

He said it was not enough to say that Jesus was the answer. He said that I needed to explain how the answer would work out. Then he asked a telling question that has haunted me ever since. “What would the economy and society look like if everyone was a Christian”. I had no answer to that question. I knew it would be different, but I could not explain how.

My lecturer suggested that I should enrol in a Ph.D programme and he would supervise me while I developed an answer to that question. I took his advice, but after a couple of months, I realised that I simply did not have enough knowledge to tackle the problem. There were very few books or journal articles to draw on.

So I pulled out and moved to Dunedin to study theology in preparation for ministry. However, I always knew that I would come back one day and answer that important question. In this next season, my first task is to publish my book called the Government of God (it is nearly done). My main task is to answer the question that beat me back when I was a young economics graduate.

Since then I have studied and thought deeply about both theology and economics. I am now prepared to answer the tricky question. I am planning to write a book about economics from God’s perspective. I will probably call it God's Economy. I expect that it will take me at least a year to compile and write all the thoughts and concepts that I have developed.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

New Season

A few years after I had chosen to follow Jesus, I was nearing the completion of my theological studies in Dunedin. I became very uneasy about the nature of my calling, because I did not seem to fit the standard pastoral mold. One night when we were praying, a fellow student and friend had a prophecy for me that included these words.

God’s hand stretches forth
and is followed by your eyes.
The vision is his, not yours...
The way of fulfilment is his, not yours…
Those who have eyes to see
must pray to see the fulfilment.
Your ministry is one of vision
God has given you eyes to follow his hand.
Don’t be impatient.
Give yourself to him in prayer
and you will see him do works before your eyes.
His words rung a bell for me, but I was not always acknowledged in this role within the church.

It is funny where recognition comes from. The secular organisation that I worked in for 33 years recognised my gifting.

Back in 2005, a hard-nosed Australian was appointed as chief executive, the first outsider to be given the role for several decades. He faced numerous requests from managers wanting funding to undertake important projects. There was not enough money to go round, so he asked a good question. Would these projects get the organisation to where it should be in ten to fifteen years time. No one could answer the question, because they did not know where their organisation needed to be.

I was asked to prepare a paper outlining what the organisation would need to become in a decades time, if it were to fulfil its role. I wrote a paper outlining how things needed to change. I described it as an architecture for the future. Many of the things I described were already known, but they had never been all put together before, with the interactions explained. I provided diagrams explaining how everything should fit together.

When the CEO, saw it, he said, “That’s it. That’s what we need to do”. And he committed the organisation to implementing the vision. Now as I leave the organisation, more than a decade later, the implementation is nearing completion, and managers are committed to finishing it.

When I travelled to an international conference to present the paper, the secular people working in the same field made the same response. They recognised it as the way to go.

When you love Jesus and are sharing a lot of visionary stuff for the future, and the church is not getting it, you can begin to doubt and wonder if you have lost the plot. Even though the acknowledgement came from secular people, it affirmed my wisdom and insight. That was encouraging. They gave me the confidence to press on in Jesus.

Thirty years preparation is not that long. Moses had to spend forty years watching daggy sheep.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Enjoy the Season

I began 33 years of employment in 1984, when I had resigned from my role as a Presbyterian minister. We moved to Christchurch with three young children, needing a home and income. There were not many jobs going at that time, so I took the one I was offered, even though it did not seem to be right, assuming that something better would turn up.

I had resigned on principle of faith, so I presume I was hoping for something more spiritual, or more important. It took me quite a long time to realise that God had put me in this place to bless me.

Some of the things I have gained over the 33 years in employment include the following.

  • My first manager was a really good writer, something that I always struggled with. She taught me to write clearly and precisely. She showed me that using the right words is essential for communicating a message. I did not realise at the time how important that would become.

  • For ten years, I was responsible for editing many of the organisation’s information releases. I learned how to produce really tight writing, with clear, readable, concise, accurate information.

  • I learnt html, which has been really useful for building a website and putting books in Kindle format

  • I was manager of a large division for five years. I really struggled with this task, but I learned a lot about how good leaders operate and relate to the people following them.

  • Just as I had to be a pastor of a church to discover what the church could be, I needed to be part of a large bureaucracy to understand how bureaucratic organisations can lose their way. Bureaucratic or political power can bring out the worst in people.

  • I learned that the government is not the solution, despite appearances, and immense hopes.

  • For the last twelve years, my role has been advisory. I have had to learn how to have an influence in situations where I had very little authority. I have discovered that people are not necessarily persuaded by the truth or strength of your arguments. Influence depends much more on the quality of your relationships and the strength of their respect of you.

  • I worked with some incredibly clever conceptual thinkers. I learned how to work through step-by-step from first principles to realistic practical solutions. I learned how to expose implausible assumptions and false logic.

  • I have interacted with a diverse range of people. People from many nations, a variety of religions, and every other difference that you can think of. I have learned to see the image of God in people who are very different from me.

  • I discovered that if you see the best in people, they become better.

  • I have made some really good friends, and got to know some people whom I can really trust.

  • I have had the opportunity to travel to about a dozen different countries and meet with some very interesting people.

  • The income provided for the needs of my family while they were growing up. I once said that it was a good trough to have your snout in. The comments yesterday suggest that the organisation got good value for the money.

  • For the last fifteen years, I have been able to work part-time, and still receive a good income. This has freed me up to do the things that God has called me to do. I have written and published four books. I have added hundreds of articles to the Kingdom Watcher website. For a time, I assisted with the leadership of a house church. I have been able to do this and still have time for my family.

So it was a good place to be, although I did not realise it when I started.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Changing Season

For the last thirty-three years, I have been employed in a technical advisory role by a large professional organisation. Yesterday that came to an end. They called it retirement, but for me it is just a new season in my life.

I wanted to sneak out quietly, but my manager Sarah said that was not allowed. Some of my colleagues said they loved me too much to let me get away with a quiet departure. So they put on a morning tea, with a large cake, speeches, and messages from colleagues in other places who could not be there.

The following words were used:

  • wisdom
  • clear thinking
  • pragmatic logical approach
  • visionary
  • mentoring
  • thoughtful
  • clever and kind
  • encouraging
  • integrity
  • wise and thoughtful
I am pleased that some of Jesus grace has shone through for people to see.

Tomorrow, I will describe what I learned during this season.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

North Korea (5) What Would Jesus Say

South Korea is one of the most Christian counties in the world. Nearly thirty percent of citizens claim to be Christian. Therefore, we should expect a different response to the problem in the north. Korean Christians should be asking what Jesus would have them do about this situation.

First, South Korea should stop depending on the United States for defence (the US is mostly there to intimidate China anyway). The Bible says that God’s people should not rely on military alliances for their protection, because they stop trusting in him. South Korea should ask the United States to remove all its military forces from the country. It should stop holding joint military alliances with the United States. The alliance with the United States and the joint military exercises just make the entire situation more volatile. It might weaken their protection, but it would push them towards faith in God.

Jesus said to bless your enemies and not to curse them. The Christians of South Korea should look for ways to bless the people to the north. The best way to do this would be to share their material wealth. Here are some things they could do.

  • Fill a ship with new cars and send it to the north as a gift.
  • Send a load tractors and agricultural and roading equipment to the north.
  • Send a ship load of electronic equipment as a gift.
  • If Chinese ships were chartered for this purpose, the north would not be threatened.
  • Establish places in the demilitarised zone where they can leave food, clothing and other essentials for the soldiers guarding the border.
  • Repeat these activities over and over again
  • Keep on praying. Prayer motivated by love is more effective than prayer motivated by fear or hate.
Love might break through where threats of force have failed.

When blessing North Korea, Christians should avoid trickery. They should make sure that no spy equipment is attached to their gifts. They should not accompany it with propaganda. The gifts should be given without any strings attached.

Most Koreans want the two countries to be re-united. This will be almost impossible when one economy is so underdeveloped and the other is highly developed. There will need to be a massive transfer of capital and wealth from south to north, if they are to be united. The north cannot afford to pay for this transfer, so it will have to be given as a gift. This giving might as well start now to bring peace.

Monday, May 08, 2017

North Korea (4) Current Situation

The population of South Korea is double that of the north. The GDP of South Korea is eighty times that of North Korea. The latter is feeble compared with the former.

North Korea is not a big threat to the world. It has a huge army, but it is poorly equipped with weapons dating from the 1960s. The military forces spend much of their time building roads by hand and harvesting crops, so they are not very well trained. Their air force is antiquated. North Korea would struggle to defeat the well-trained forces of their southern neighbours. South Korea has modern military and equipment and an air force that can provide close support for its infantry.

There is no evidence that North Korea has a working nuclear bomb. Detonating a nuclear weapon under experimental conditions underground is easier than building a bomb that will explode when dropped from a plane in a war situation.

North Korea does not have bombers that are capable of breaking through the air defences of the surrounding nations, so it could not drop a bomb even if it had one that would work.

Kim Jong-un has had some success in developing missiles, although most have exploded during take-off. Many of the missiles that appear in military parades seem to be fake.

Moreover, Korea does not have a nuclear weapon that is small enough to be launched on a missile. Developing a design that is compact enough to fit on a missile is very difficult.

Bullying North Korea with economic sanctions and threats of military action will not work. When you are afraid of a bully, you do not give up the only protection you have. Economic sanctions and threats of military action just confirm that the United States is really hostile to North Korea. From the Korean perspective, these threats make nuclear weapons even more essential.

Assassinating Kim Jong-un would be pointless. He does not rule on his own. He will be working with powerful relatives and key people in the military and security services. If he were taken out, one of these place would take his place, and they might be worse.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

North Korea (3) Threatened King

Commentators say that Kim Jong-un is irrational and unpredictable. They are wrong. If he is understood as a king, like the kings that used to rule most of Europe, his behaviour is perfectly rational.

Kim Jong-un is behaving as kings have always behaved, by striving to preserve his family dynasty. The Kim family has done quite well so far, remaining in power for three generations.

Some of Kim Jong-un support might be the result of propaganda, but that is only part of the story. People ruled by a king get to love him. When their king comes under attack, they idolize him more.

Kim Jong-un is not unpredictable. His response has been very rational. Any king with thirty thousand troops belonging to a powerful empire facing him across the border would be nervous. He will be especially nervous, if the empire has invaded in the past. He would look for a way to neutralise the advantage of the great power and try to prevent it from invading.

North Korea needs nuclear weapons to protect the Kim dynasty. Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein gave up their pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Americans got rid of them. Kim Jong-un is not stupid. He knows that his nuclear capability has prevented him from going the same way.

The people of North Korea have not forgotten that the United States invaded and destroyed their country. The Americans did far more damage and killed far more people than the Japanese. The Koreans are scared that the US will do it again.

Americans think their troops are in Korea to preserve the peace and that they are not a threat to the north. However, history says that is wrong. The United States has invaded North Korea in the past and tried to destroy it. There is no evidence that the United States has given up invading countries. In recent decades, they have invaded and destroyed Libya and Iraq. So the people of North Korea are right to be afraid of a United States invasion, They look out on the demilitarised zone and see an empire that likes to invade smaller nations, and is willing to fabricate an excuse to do so. They hear politicians declaring that they want to invade Korea.

Every year, South Korea and the United States forces hold military exercises in which the practice and invasion of the north. The North Koreans do not know when the practice will turn into an invasion, so they have to prepare for defence. They see this intimidation as threatening and act accordingly.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

North Korea (2) Conflict and War

After ongoing conflict and skirmishes between the North and South, war broke out in 1950.

During the Korean War 1950-53, the United States invaded North Korea. However, the Chinese intervened and forced the US forces back to the 38th parallel. Because they were defeated, Americans have forgotten this war, but North Koreans still remember. The United States imposed terrible destruction on North Korea.

In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry.”
The number of inhabitants of Pyongyang killed by bomb splinters, burnt alive and suffocated by smoke is incalculable…Some 50,000 inhabitants remained in the city which before the war had a population of 500,000.
The United States killed over 2 million people in a country that posed no threat to US national security. By 1953 American pilots were returning to carriers and bases claiming there were no longer any significant targets in all of North Korea to bomb.
In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.
There reasons for this ugly destruction have been forgotten. I presume this was the people's punishment for allowing communism to be imposed on them.

Prior to the war, Korea was a single country. Agriculture was primarily in the south and industry was concentrated in the north. The war destroyed the industrial base, so the North was left without industry or agriculture, making it very poor. The country still struggles to feed itself.

North Korea is now more hostile to Christianity than any country in the world. This is partly because their country was invaded and destroyed by a Christian empire.

The past affects the future.

Friday, May 05, 2017

North Korea (1) Past affects the Present

The history of Korea is not well understood, but the present situation is largely the result of the past.

  • Korea is an ancient culture that achieved national unity in 608 AD. Despite living in the shadow of China, it has retained its unique language and traditions since then.

  • National independence ended in 1910 after Japan invaded and occupied the country. The Korean emperor handed sovereignty over his the Japanese emperor “completely and forever.” The United States and the United Kingdom were worried about the expansion of Russia, so they did not resist the Japanese expansion.

  • Korea was controlled by Japan for four decades. The Japanese used collaborators among the Korean elite to manage their first colony. They used enforced labor to build industries to support the Japanese economy. Many Koreans resisted Japanese control, but were severely persecuted.

  • In 1907-1910, a powerful revival occurred in Korea. It started in Pyongyang, which is not the capital of North Korea. After months of persistent prayer, 50,000 people came to Jesus in one year and the entire country was set ablaze. By 1948, more than a fifth of the population of Korea was Christian. Only about 400,000 Christians are thought to remain in North Korea today.

  • Korea was divided by an agreement between Stalin and Roosevelt towards the end of World War 2. They agreed the boundary should be the 38th parallel. They were supposed to be setting Korea free from Japanese control, but the people of Korea had no say in their decisions. Their country was divided by a dispute they had no interest in, and they had no choice about which side they would end up on.

  • Elections to unite the country were supposed to be held but neither of the great powers were interested in uniting the country. Instead, they each appointed a leader over the part they country they controlled.

  • The United States put Syngman Rhee in control over the south. He had lived most of his life in the United States, so he was loyal, but he turned out to be a rather nasty ruler. He recruited his security forces from people who had collaborated with the Japanese. Thousands of people who opposed him were arrested and killed. Protests before the 1988 Olympics in Seoul restored civil liberties and direct presidential elections in South Korea.

  • The Russians appointed Kim Il-sung. He had led guerrilla warfare against the Japanese, so he had a bit more credibility with the people.