Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Making Kingdom Real

In recent years, Christians have become fascinated by the idea of the kingdom of God. “Kingdom” is now the most popular adjective in Christian writing. Yet the political side of the kingdom has been strangely neglected. This is surprising, because a kingdom is a political institution and a form of government. Therefore, a right understanding of politics and government is critical for understanding of Kingdom of God.

The Old Testament tells the story of government. Mostly it was a mess.

Jesus had a very staunch attitude to government. Before he ascended into heaven, he claimed all authority on earth and in heaven. Yet his followers have been confused about their attitude to politics and government.

Politics and government are important, because kings and governments claim authority to exercise legitimate force and coercion. They can pass laws or proclaim regulations and punish anyone who does not obey them with fines or imprisonment. Kings and governments can force people to join their military forces and die fighting wars. They can impose taxes that take income and wealth from people by compulsion.

Governments claim that their authority to use force is legitimate because they are working for the greater good of society. This raises a related question. If a government’s right to use force is legitimate, who should control it? If it is going to be used for good, shouldn’t Christians get into the game? God is the source of all good, so how can he influence the way force is used for good?

Government of God explains how all authority can be submitted to King Jesus without the need for political power.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Elections

In an election, the people vote, but the people do not win.

Political power always wins an election.

And the spiritual powers of evil that manipulate political power never lose.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Donald Trump

Bill Bonner seems to sum up Donald Trump better than anyone.

Just a few short years ago, in 2015, Mr Scaramucci told Fox Business that Mr Trump’s palaver was “anti-American” and that he was just a “hack politician.”

That must have been the most inaccurate assessment of his future boss ever made. “The Donald” is the opposite of a hack. Hacks are reliably dull and serviceable, like a kitchen faucet. Trump is more like a loose fire hose, shooting water all over the place and soaking everyone.

Nor is Trump a politician. Politicians are smooth operators who will say whatever they need to say to get what they want. What is endearing and refreshing about Mr Trump is that he is not a politician.

As near as we can tell, the president is more like a playground bully. In and out of scrapes all his life… failed casinos, failed marriages… vulgar, indecent, and mean… he is as “The Mooch” described him – an “inherited money dude from Queens County” who somehow ended up in the White House.

And anti-American? Wrong again.

Mr. Trump captures the zeitgeist of his era better than anyone – when middle-aged Republicans long to hear the F-word in public... law-abiding Christians from Iowa can’t wait to send a drone to kill people in the Hindu Kush... and every geezer, coast to coast, seems happy to have the feds pay for his pills with money his children and grandchildren haven’t even earned yet.

Mr. Trump is a brawler. Now, he’s in the fight of his life, and he loves it.

Around him, his lackeys, sycophants, and handlers scrap for places at the table – the Goldman guys on the left, protecting the fake money system... the generals on the right, protecting the crony empire.

A third of the country loves him. A third of it hates him. And a third – the most intelligent group – doesn’t give a damn.

Meanwhile, the whole spectacle is entertaining for everyone, like a traffic accident or a nasty divorce. The press can’t take its eyes off Donald Trump.

It’s Trump. All Trump. All the time.

And more.
Donald is a lot of things. He is a skilled street fighter… a practised brawler… a lusty scrapper. But he is woefully unprepared for the battle now upon him.

The president spent his entire career building his brand – big, brash, bold… and somewhat buffoonish.

Like a professional wrestler, he was able to charm the crowds with his brawling style and winner image.

Pick fights. Say outrageous things. Stay in the public eye. Slam his opponents with scurrilous or irrelevant epithets (“Little Marco” Rubio… “Bleeding From a Facelift” Mika Brzezinski… etc.).

Substance didn’t really matter. Trump steaks? Trump University? Trump Airlines? How could any human being possibly be good at so many different things?

Of course, he couldn’t. He just had to be good at building the Trump brand. And that meant sticking to his swashbuckling, confident style.

He was even able to take his brand all the way to the White House, using the same techniques on the campaign trail that he used on his reality TV show.

And once he took office, the plan was simple. He would surround himself with the top guys from the Deep State – the moneymen and the gunmen… the Goldman guys and the generals – and he would go on being Trump.

But something went wrong.

Mr Trump seems genuinely perplexed by it... And he, the president, is doing exactly what he is supposed to do – distracting the crowds while zombies feed upon them and cronies pick their pockets.

People should be happy, he thinks. They should be enjoying the show. Instead, the battle grows more intense and mean.

And the mainstream media – which was supposed to play along by engaging in pointless, showy squabbles with the president – has turned vicious.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

American Nationalism

Anatol Lieven has an interesting book about American nationalism called America Right or Wrong. He says,

America enjoys more global power than any previous state. It dominates the world not only militarily, but also to a great extent culturally (p.1).
Despite this reality, many Americans are frustrated and angry. Lieven explains that they hold deep-rooted beliefs that often conflict with each other, and also with reality.

Most believe that Christian faith has made America great. Yet...

The religious beliefs of large sections of this core population are under constant, daily threat from modern secular culture, above all the mass media.
The extreme tension between fundamentalist religious values and the modern America mass culture, which now surrounds them is an important cause of the mood of beleaguered hysteria on the American right, which so bewilders outside observers (p.9).
Wealth
A “moral economy” prevailed for most of American history, whereby a man who worked hard, was honest and did not drink or take drugs could be assured of a steadily rising income, enough to support himself and his wife in their old age and go give his children a head start in social advancement through education (p.219).
Unfortunately, this seems to have stopped working.
Perhaps of equal importance in the long term will be the relative decline in recent decades in the real incomes of the American middle classes where these groups are situated socially.
This decline has had the effect of forcing more and more women to work, thereby undermine traditional family structures even among those groups most devoted to them (p.9).
Goodness
Like European imperialists of the past, Americans genuinely see their country’s national interests as coterminous with goodness, civilisation, progress and all the interests of humanity (p.28).
This belief in American innocence, of “original sinlessness” is both very old and very powerful. It plays a tremendously important role in strengthening American nationalism and in diminishing the nation’s willingness to listen to other countries, viewed in their turn as originally sinful (p.53).
Other nations are declared to be irrationally, incorrigibly and unchangeably hostile. This being so, it is obviously pointless to seek compromises with them or try to accommodate their interests and views. And because they are irrational and barbarous, America is free to dictate to them or even conquer them for their own good. (p.17).
Openness
Americans believe they are an open nation, welcoming refugees. Yet the long-standing tendency in American culture and politics reflects an expression of social economic, ethnic and above all racial anxieties.
These anxieties stem from the progressive loss of control over society by the “original” White Angle-Saxon and Scots Irish populations, later joined by others. Connected to these concerns are class anxieties.
In America, the supremely victorious nation of the modern age, large numbers of American feel defeated. The domestic anxieties this feeling of defeat generates spill over into their attitudes to the outside world, with 64 percent of Americans in 2002 agreeing that “our way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence”.
These fears help gives many American nationalists their curiously embittered, mean-spirited and defensive edge, so curiously at variance with America’s image and self-image as a land of success, openness, wealth and generosity. Over the years, the hatred generated by this sense of defeat and alienation has been extended to both domestic and foreign enemies.
Unfulfilled dream
This sense of America not just as an unfilled dream or vision, but also as a country with a national mission, is absolutely central to the American national indemnity and forms the core of the nation’s faith in its own “exceptionalism”. It was inscribed on the Republic’s Great Seal as America’s birth as a united nation Novus Ordo Seclorum: A New Order for the Ages (p.33).
Informally, an important part of the creed is also the belief that the United States embodies and exemplifies the only model of successful modernity in general: “Americans see history as a straight line and themselves standing at the cutting edge of it as representatives for all mankind”.
The myths attendant on the Creed include a very widespread belief that the United States is exceptional in its allegiance to democracy and freedom, and is therefore exceptionally good. And because America is exceptionally good it both deserves to be exceptionally powerful and by nature cannot use its power for evil ends. The American Creed is therefore a key foundation of belief in America’s innate innocence (p.49).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Keith Giles

I recently listened to the podcast of an interview of Keith Giles by Preston Sprinkle. I was amazed and impressed.

  • Keith Giles is a trained theologian who has served in many church roles, choosing not to take a salary and working with a church in his house. That does not happen often. Especially one that would consider it a failure if he ended up pastoring a thousand people. He seems to be working out some of the principles that I described in my book called Being Church Where We Live, which describes a radically different model for doing church. It focuses on shared leadership with balanced gifting.

  • Keith goes on to talk about his book called Political Entanglement. The clarity with which he exposed the problem was stunning. Looking from the outside, it is obvious the church’s entanglement with politics is wrong and damaging. So it is great to hear someone from the inside, challenging Christian entanglement with politics.

His talk is worth a listen.

I agree with Keith that politics is not the solution to the problems that Christians are using politics to solve. In my book called Government of God, I advocate a solution based on voluntary sharing and caring, rather than political power. The book explains how a radical model of church can resolve the problems of politics.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

US Foreign Policy

Last weekend, I read a coup of interesting articles about US Foreign Policy.

Michael Brenner argues that American governments assume that, because they are the most technologically advanced and richest nation ever, any objective they choose will be achieved if enough resources are committed to it.

There are features of how the United States makes and executes foreign policy that help to explain why Washington is repeatedly thrown into confusion by unforeseen developments. Most significant is a certain linearity of thinking and action.
Every objective must yield to American know-how, ingenuity and strength of will.
He calls this linear thinking. This belief has several unfortunate side effects.
1. Policy failures caused by contingent developments are not recognized as such – neither the negative outcome, nor the disruption of the original plan by unforeseen developments. Hence, nothing is learned.
2. Unforeseen impediments are treated not only as troublesome surprises, but as somehow illegitimate and offensive…. Of particular interest is that developments which are entirely natural and logical given the circumstances are pronounced are unnatural and surprising because they disturb the linearity of American thinking.
3. In other words, the linear mindset blocks out all non-conforming realities in the present and those contingent elements which might arise in the future. Nor does it pay the slightest attention to how achievement of that objective, or some approximation to it, could provoke reactions that carry new dangers and new threats down the road.
4. Yet another tack taken by linear thinkers to avoid confronting the full implications of their limitations is the insistence on “another try.” That persistence has little to do with cool-headed determination of the objective’s importance. Nor is it justified on the grounds that the fly in the ointment (monkey wrench in the gears) that doomed previous efforts has been identified and removed. Rather, it is an expression of a primitive belief in the ultimate triumph of the will. That is an attitude that fits well the deeply rooted American “can-do” spirit. And that failure is not an acceptable word in the American lexicon.
5. The most extreme method utilized by the linear mindset to prevent constructive or ambiguous factors from disturbing their pre-set plans is to negate them – to ignore their existence.
6. A variant of this particularly immature psychological ploy involves the disparaging the importance of unforeseen occurrences.
Brenner gives examples for each side effect.

Harvey M Sapolosky gives further explanation.

Absent a rival on the scale and power of the now dead Soviet Union, the United States is a very secure country. We are the richest country in the world, protected by two big oceans and a military that is second to none. Our population is big (we are the third most populous nation) and resourceful, claiming the leadership in nearly every line of science and technology. And we spend a fortune on our defense, and have done so for decades. So mostly we meddle....
Our wars, though constant, are without victory... There are no wins because we really don’t care that much. Our security isn’t at risk. Win, lose or draw, we are safe. The other people live where we fight.
One president gets us involved in some distant conflict because he fears being shamed for not leading a global posse to right the wrong. The next president tries to get us out because our allies in the fight are shirkers and/or totally corrupt and the costs of buttressing them are too high. Mostly we are half in and half out of every crisis. Nothing requires a fight to the finish... we are drawn to—and easily distracted from—every fight.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Political Change

Some time ago, I sensed that a spirit of destruction had set up a throne the gate of the city of Wellington (the capital city of New Zealand).

We appeared to be heading up to a boring election, but in the last two weeks, we have seen the careers of two national political leaders being destroyed.

The first leader to be destroyed Andrew Little was the leader of the main opposition party in New Zealand. He was a sincere man, but his position was weakened by poor opinion polls, and some unwise comments to the news media that exposed him to a move to replace him. The new leader of the Labour party is a younger woman with charisma and television presence.

The second leader to be destroyed was co-leader of the Green Party. She resigned after coming intense media pressure. She had announced that twenty years ago when she was a sole mother she had given false information when applying for a benefit.

This is not politics as usual, but a sign of what the spirits of destruction and confusion when working together.

The general election is only eight weeks away. I suspect that another national political leader out of Wellington will be destroyed before that day comes.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Prophets to the Nation

God has been restoring his prophetic ministry. He now has many prophets to his church, but still very few prophets to the nation.

Prophetic people should be clearer about who they are addressing. Many say they have a word for America (or the United States) when really it is a word to the Christians in America, ie the church.

The destiny of the church and the nation can be quite different, especially when the church is a minority.

Many Christians in America feel like they are under pressure. God is telling them to press in and he will turn their situation around and lift them up. Many prophetic people are speaking that way to America, but this is actually a message for the church in America.

God's message to the nation and its political leaders is different. America is the most powerful nation in the world, but it seems to have lost its way. The leaders of the United States need a clear word from prophets to the nation, not an encouraging, but irrelevant word from prophets to the church.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Surprised

When Peter and John healed the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, the people were astonished. Peter said,

When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you (Acts 3:12).
That’s an interesting question, one that we all need to think about. The crowd were astonished, but Peter was suggesting that it was not surprising. This was normal, now that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Peter explains:
You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see (Acts 4:15-16).
God has raised Jesus from the dead. He is the author of life. The crippled man has been completely healed by in Jesus.

Jesus has been raised from the dead, so healing of the sick is now normal. Peter and John were applying Jesus’ standard method for sharing the gospel.

  • Go to a public place
  • Heal the sick
  • Wait for the crowd to gather
  • Proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
We should not be surprised if the method that Jesus told us to use actually works. Peter does not seem to have been surprised. He had seen Jesus use this method. He had used it when he was sent out with the Twelve.

If we think that a crippled person being completely healed is surprising, we are standing with the unbelievers in Jerusalem, not with Peter and John.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

War Zone

Here is a question?

Would you walk across Afghanistan on your own (with a pistol in your pocket). Most people would say “No!”, because there is a war going on and it would too dangerous. That is sensible.

Here is another question. Which is the most dangerous? The physical war in Afghanistan or the spiritual war in the place where you live and work.

I don’t know what you would answer, but I believe that the spiritual war is more dangerous than the physical war. More people are hurt and injured by spiritual war than physical war. Yet we spend most of days wandering around on our own (with our bibles in our pocket).

Actually there are plenty of secure place in Afghanistan. There are large pieces of territory that are secured and controlled by the side that you identify with. If you stay on this territory, you will be relatively safe (nothing is guaranteed in life and war).

Getting back to spiritual war, where is the territory that has been secured by your side. In the days of parishes, churches took territory seriously. Now Christians drive to church, so no one cares about territory. There is very little territory that has been secured by the people of God. This makes life dangerous for followers of Jesus.

Government of God explains the importance of territory for Jesus, and how his people can secure territory for him.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Positive Vision

We live in a culture where everyone is critical. Televisions screens and newspapers are full of material critical of the powers that be. Twitter takes this to a new level.

I believe that sharing a positive vision, and of course, living it out so the world can see is more important.

When I was re-writing my book Being Church Where We Live to correct some things that had been misunderstood, I felt the Lord tell me to remove all critique of the existing church and concentrate on sharing a positive vision. I think I succeeded, but funnily enough, some people said they preferred the previous version. Sadly, I think their enjoyment of the critique, prevented from seeing the vision being articulated.

In my recent book Government of God, I had to include some critique of the existing establishment, because the vision is so radical, but I put it in a separate section at the end, where it can be ignored. I wanted to concentrate on communicating a positive vision.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Peter

After Peter and John were released from prison, they prayed and quoted a prophecy by David.

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together against the Lord
and against his anointed one (Acts 4:25-26).
Peter understood that the rulers of the nations are opposed to God’s purposes. God responded to the prayer by re-filling them with the Holy Spirit.
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).
God was doing something much bigger than the nations and their rulers. He was bringing in the Kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Many Christians still hope to use the power of the nation state to establish the Kingdom of God. Peter understood that God could do something more powerful through the Holy Spirit.

Government of God

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Chosen Nation (4) Kingdom of God

Actually, there is no hierarchy of power in the Kingdom of God. Neither for people or nations. The Kingdom of God looks like this.

The Holy Spirit can speak to every follower of Jesus. They can all hear his voice and know Jesus will. They do not need another person to tell the what Jesus is saying.

Distinctions between nations break down, as loyalty to nations is replaced by loyalty to Jesus. Citizens of the Kingdom have no nation.

The only special role in the Kingdom of God is that of elders (some are pastors, some are apostles, some are evangelists, some are prophets, others are judges). Their role is to serve the people that God has entrusted to them. This mostly involves watching from a distance, praying for them, giving advice and warning about possible mistakes. The elders do not control the people they are caring for. Their only authority is what people have freely submitted them. Because it is freely submitted, it can be freely taken away again at any time.

So the Kingdom of God really looks like this.

The elders are at the bottom, because their role is to serve the people. That have no authority, except what people gave to them.

I describe this more fully in Government of God.

Chosen Nation (3) Self Chosen

Some Christians actually think that the Kingdom of God looks like this.

They assume that God want the chosen nation controlling all the other kings and nations of the world. For many people, the chosen nation is the United Sates. God has chosen it to dominate the world to make it a better place. This view does not come out very well in the book of Revelation.

Johns Vision
John saw a vision of a Woman riding on a Beast. In this vision, the chosen nation is the woman and the nation that controls the other nations of the world is the Beast (Rev 17:1-6). The woman is Israel (Rev 12:1-6), and the Beast is a powerful nation that dominates the nations of the world.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Chosen Nation (2) Incorrect Views

Many people have a distorted view of the Kingdom of God. They think it looks something like this.

They assume that Kingdom of God comes into reality when the King or President is a Christian, or at least lead by God. This is why contesting elections have become such an important objective.

The problem with this view is the duplication of kings. A kingdom cannot have two kings. If Jesus is the king of the Kingdom of God, then other kings cannot have a role in his kingdom. A kingdom with multiple kings will be a divided kingdom, that cannot stand.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Chosen Nation (1)

Before Jesus came, God worked through a chosen nation. God did not choose the children of Israel, because he liked them better than other people. He chose them because Abraham was faithful and he had a task for them to do in the world. God needed Israel for two key reasons.

  1. He needed a place on earth where he had permission to operate freely. That place was the promised land. He would eventually make this a safe place to send his son.

  2. God wanted Israel to demonstrate the benefits of living under his law (Deut 4:6-8). If Israel had applied God’s system of government, local judges applying his law, the nations would have seen how well it worked and copied it.

Israel failed to live up to its calling.
  1. They rebelled against God, and went into exile. The promised land was ruled by foreign empires: Babylon Persian, Rome. God’s authority to operate in the land was significantly constrained. He had to wait a long time before it was safe to send Jesus.

  2. Israel rejected God’s system of government and chose to be ruled by a king, like the other nations. The wisdom of God’s law was never demonstrated.

This difficulty did not hold God back, because it was only the first step in his big plan. He sent Jesus to get the second stage of his plan underway.

Jesus did not come to restore the chosen nation, although that was what was expected (Acts 1:6). The chosen nation was just a step on the way to God’s much greater plan for redeeming the entire world. Jesus announced the Kingdom of God, which is a much broader concept than a chosen nation, because the Kingdom of God covers the entire world.

Jesus did attempt to restore the chosen nation. He announced that it would be destroyed soon after his ministry on earth was complete and the Kingdom of God had been inaugurated (Luke 20:9-15; 21:20-24).

Jesus explained that the Kingdom of God does not need a chosen nation, because it would be within them (Luke 19:21). This does not mean that the Kingdom is invisible. Rather Jesus was saying that the Holy Spirit would be within each believer, telling them Jesus’ will and empowering them to obey it. God’s kingdom comes as Jesus will is done. Jesus’ will is done, as people obey the leading of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he poured out the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit did not just come on the chosen nation. Rather, Jesus poured out the Holy spirit on people from all the nations who had gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5-11). They would take the gospel of the Kingdom back to their homes and spread the Kingdom of God into all the world. They would teach the people of the nations to do Jesus’ will (Matt 28:20).

The outpouring of Pentecost and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God made the chosen nation redundant. A few years later, in AD 70, the chosen nation was destroyed by the Roman Empire and the Jewish people scattered among the nations into exile. A chosen nation was no longer needed, because the Kingdom of God had come.

God no longer needed a piece of land on earth in which to work, because the Holy Spirit could work in people all over the world. He would be a river of living water flowing out from within them into the surrounding people (John 7:38). The ministry of Jesus shifted God’s scope of activity from a small piece of land to the entire world (Matt 28:19).

God will eventually save the chosen nation, but not by restoring them as a nation with their own king. Instead, they must become part of the Kingdom of God, through trusting in Jesus, and obeying the Holy Spirit (Rom 11:26).

The chosen nation no longer responsible for bringing salvation to the world (apart from proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom). Rather it finds salvation by coming into the Kingdom of God.

God has been happy to let his Kingdom run on for 2000 years without a chosen nation. Clearly his kingdom can function without one. Not that different people have not tried to become a chosen nation for him. The kings of the Holy Roman Empire thought they were the chosen nation for a couple of hundred years. Then the people of British thought they were the chosen nation. Now many people in the United States assume that it is the chosen nation. Some believe that the United States and Israel have this role together.

The truth is that when God scattered Israel amongst the nations, he did not appoint a chosen nation to replace it (except in the sense that all citizens of the Kingdom of God are a chosen nation (Rev 1:6)).

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Mary's Prophecy

When Jesus was still a baby in her womb, Mary gave a wonderful prophecy. She said,

God the Mighty One has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
The prophecy has not been fulfilled yet. Mostly because the church has colluded with the rulers sitting on thrones.

Government of God explains how kingdom communities can lift up the humble, so that human rulers become redundant, and Jesus becomes the only ruler, from his throne in the heavenly realms.