Monday, June 18, 2018

Body Love

Followers of Jesus were baptised into one body.

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many (1 Cor 12:14).
The members of the body of Jesus are dependent on each other.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body (1 Cor 12:15).
The hand cannot say to the foot, your pain does not affect me, so I do not care about it.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it (1 Cor 12:26).
If the foot is suffering, every member of the body should be feeling its pain.

The eye who has a professional salary, cannot say to the hand that has lost its income, your suffering does not affect me.

This is why John said,

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person (1 John 3:17)?
In one member of a body of believers has worldly wealth, and another is suffering in poverty, the love that Jesus requires is missing.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16)?
If love is working, there will be caring and sharing with one another. People will not be able to stay in poverty for long.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Luxury Prophets

Jesus said that prophets who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are in the houses of kings and political leaders (Luke 7:25). Leaders like to have these prophets around because they build up their power and authority.

Most are not in the king's house physically, but to many are there spiritually.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Liberated

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he describes what Jesus has done for us. Those who have been buried with him in baptism and raised with him, have been given full life in him. While we were dead in our sin and controlled by our sinful nature, he did the following for us.

  • He forgave all our sins.
  • The ordinances that held us captive were cancelled by the cross.
  • The spiritual rulers and powers that controlled us were stripped of their power.
(Colossians 2:13-15).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Community and Culture

In an article called Will Loss of Religious Liberty Doom Evangelicalism? George Yancy has some interesting comments.

Evangelicals have gotten used to being the most powerful religious group in our society. That is not going to be the case for the foreseeable future, if ever again...

So beyond politics, it is also important that we think about protecting ourselves by building up our community. If there are fewer of us, but those of us who are left are more committed, then we can make demands on each other that will strengthen our larger community. Groups that do not have majority group power do well to have a strong notion of community so that their subculture can thrive.

What are some of the implications of building up our vision of being a Christian community inside a larger secular society? We can develop a powerful in-group loyalty that allows us to help each other. We can develop supportive economic structures that serve our subculture. We can focus on socializing our children to be ready for the struggles of a post-Christian world. These are only some of the important ways having a community mindset can provide us with the social means to persist in a society that wants to remove us from the public square.

It can be as a community that we can renew a focus on reaching out to the marginalized. A powerful group tends to ignore those who struggle in our society. In a society where we no longer have majority group power, we can humbly use our in-group loyalty to work together so that we can better minister to those society left behind. Such efforts not only enlarge our community by bringing some of the marginalized into our community but also provides a powerful witness of love for the least of these.

Ultimately, it is going to be these acts of love and a true demonstration of the values we say we hold to help us deal with the threat to our religious liberty. Since the threat comes from a change of cultural values, we can begin to neutralize it by impacting the culture. And the best way to impact the culture is to have a Christian community where we are encouraged to live with integrity, transparency and to love those around us. Building the right type of Christian community is vital for what we need today.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Misleading Models

In Debunking Economics, Steve Keen gives two reasons why mainstream economists did not see the global financial crisis coming.

  • The economic models of these economists assume that economies always move towards equilibrium. External shocks may push an economy away from equilibrium for a short time, but it will quickly adjust back towards equilibrium. A long-term economic depression cannot exist in these models, because they are always trending back to equilibrium.

    Keen quotes Robert Solow.

    I start from the presumption that we want macroeconomics to account for the occasional aggregative pathologies that beset modern capitalist economies, like recession, intervals of stagnation, inflation, ‘stagflation’... A model that rules out pathologies by definition is unlikely to help (p. 259).
    Keen also quotes Minsky
    Can ‘It’—a great Depression—happen again: And if ‘It’ can happen, why didn’t it occur in the years since World War II? These are questions that naturally follow from both the historical record and the comparative success of the past thirty-five years. To answer these question, it is necessary to have an economic theory, which makes a great depression one of the possible states in which our type of capitalist economy can find itself (p. 381).
    Mainstream economists could not foresee the global financial crisis because their models could not forecast a crisis.

  • The models of the mainstream economists did not include debt. They assume that money is neutral and does not affect the real economy. Likewise, debt is left out of their models, because they assume that it just shifts purchasing power from one person to another. They assume that debt does not affect the real economy.

    Keen quotes Paul Krugman as confirmation.
    Given both the prominence of debt in popular discussion of economic difficulties and the long tradition of invoking debt as a key factor in major economic contractions, one might have expected debt to be at the heart of most mainstream macroeconomic models—especially the analysis at the hear of monetary and fiscal policy. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, however it is quite common to abstract altogether from this feature of the economy (p.321).
    Unfortunately, by leaving debt out of their models, they could not explain or foresee the effects of debt deflation.


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Cross and Power

Brian Zahnd writes that we need to understand how the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount ends up condemned by the Sanhedrin and executed by the Roman Empire.

Jesus was not preaching his sermons and working his miracles as “random acts of kindness” but as announcements and enactments of the arrival of the kingdom of God. By the kingdom of God we mean the government of God, the politics of God, the alternative arrangement of the world that comes from God. In his practice of radical hospitality Jesus was announcing the arrival of a new way of arranging human society. Jesus was proclaiming to the principalities and powers (the very rich, the very powerful, the very religious, the institutions they represent, and the malevolent spirits that energize it all) that their time was up because the alternative from heaven was now within reach.

Jesus called upon all who heard him to rethink everything (repent) and believe that a radical rearrangement of the world was good news. But...
The empire always strikes back.

The principalities and powers had a vested interest in keeping the world as it had always been arranged — an arrangement that benefits the elite. So Caiaphas (the very religious), Herod (the very rich), and Pilate (the very powerful) colluded together to execute this Galilean disrupter who threatened their preferred social order. A mere five days after arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus is betrayed, arrested, tried, condemned, spit upon, beaten, scourged, and crucified.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Prophets and Power

When prophets become puppets of political power and war,
lies justify murder and violence.

If a ruler listens to lies,
all his officials become wicked (Prov 29:12).
When the prophets of a nation believe a lie,
evil is at the door.

A prophet can be a trumpet that sounds a clear call to a nation (1 Cor 14:8).
A prophet who is a trump-pet leads the people astray.

Bullies rarely generate peace.

Too many prophets trust the power of a gun more than the power of the Holy Spirit.

A prophet carrying a gun will corrupt God's word with violence and war.

Ministry of the Prophet.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Debunking Economics

I have just read Debunking Economics by Steve Keen, an Australian economist. He is no slug, because he is one of the few economists who warned of the GFC before it happened.

In this book, he goes through the development of economics and exposes all the false assumptions and illogical foundations that plague neoclassical economics.

It is many years since I formally studied economics, so I had forgotten how bad the experience was. Reading this book reminded of how frustrating it is working with assumptions about economic and personal behaviour that are totally unrealistic. No wonder economic predictions are usually wrong and that policy recommendations fail to achieve the results they promised.

Everyone studying economics formally should read this book.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Future

When we get a vision of our future, we must be careful. God can show his plans for the future, but we must not just assume that it is from him. The enemy sometimes shows us his plan for our future. If we agree with it, then he has permission to fulfil it. So the evil plan becomes self-fulling. Therefore, we need to discern whether what we have seen laid out is from God or the enemy, before we agree to it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Spiritual Realms

Both good and evil are present in the spiritual realms. If we are open to those realms, then we will almost certainly experience both. We should ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of discernment so that you can discern which experiences are good and which are evil.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Chao is worse than Tyranny???

A well-known theologian recently gave this justification for the power of the state.

God wants the world to be ordered not chaotic. There is a role for civil authorities, and sooner or later, faced with wicked angry, violent bullying people, they have to do restrain them, and restraint involves violence.

Chaos is worse than tyranny.

Anarchy does not solve anything.

This is a common view, but there are two problems with his statement.
  • Throughout history, most of the violence and bullying has been done by civil authorities. If they are given authority to use violence, who will restrain them. This model does not protect people from wicked and bullying governments. Tyranny is often terrible.

  • More importantly, this statement cannot be justified from the scriptures. God did not establish governments and kings to establish order in the world. Kings were an ideal stolen from the surrounding nations.

God gave his law to provide order amongst his people. His law applied by local judges is the best protection against violence, bullying and wickedness.
Law is good if it is used in the right way. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful (1 Tim 1:8-9).
Law is good when used for the right purpose. God gave his law to restrain law-breakers and rebels. Yet his people ignore his law, and choose to live under civil authorities, who claim a monopoly on violence and yet fail to protect their people.

My book Government of God explains how God's law applied by local judges in a community of love brings the order to society that people want.

Monday, May 14, 2018

One Another Stuff

The New Testament does not teach us to worship with one other.

Instead, it tells us to do all these "One Anothers".

  • Love one another (1 John 3:11,23; 4:7,11;).
  • Love one another (2 John 1:5;).
  • Love one another (1 Thes 3:12;).
  • Love one another (1 Pet 1:22; 4:8;).
  • Love one another (Rom 13:8).
  • Be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10).
  • Honour one another above yourselves (Rom 12:10).
  • Live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16).
  • Stop passing judgement on one another (Rom 14:13).
  • Build up and edify each other (Rom 14:19).
  • Instruct (admonish) one another (Rom 15:14).
  • Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you (Rom 15:7).
  • Greet one another (Rom 16:16; 1 Peter 5:14).
  • Agree with one another so that may be perfectly united (1 Cor 1:10).
  • Have concern for each other (1 Cor 12:25).
  • Serve one another in love (Gals 5:13).
  • Carry each other's burdens (Gal 6:2).
  • Bearing with one another in love (Eph 4:2).
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph 4:32).
  • Forgive one another (Eph 4:32).
  • Speak to one another (Eph 5:19).
  • Submit to one another (Eph 5:21).
  • Agree with each other (Phil 4:2).
  • Forgive one another (Col 3:13).
  • Teach and admonish one another (Col 3:16).
  • Encourage one another (1 Thes 4:18; 5:11).
  • Build each other up (1 Thes 5:11).
  • Live in peace with each other (1 Thes 5:13).
  • Be kind to each other (1 Thes 5:15).
  • Encourage one another daily (Heb 3:13).
  • Spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24).
  • Encourage one another (Heb 10:25).
  • Keep on loving each other as brothers (Heb 13:1).
  • Confess your sins to each other (James 5:16).
  • Pray for each other (James 5:16).
  • Love one another deeply, from the heart (1 Pet 1:22).
  • Live in harmony with one another (1 Pet 3:8).
  • Offer hospitality to one another (1 Pet 4:9).
  • Serve each other (1 Pet 4:10).
  • Show humility toward one another (1 Pet 5:5).
  • Greet one another with a kiss of love (1 Pet 5:14).
  • Have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7).
If we only come together for worship and listening to sermons, which the New Testament does not require, we will not have time to do the "One Another Stuff" that the New Testament does require. For these, we have to be together.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Torah

The Books of Moses (Torah) were not a set of rules for earning salvation. God had already rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by grace when he gave them. He had given them a new land by grace, too.

The Torah was not a system of salvation by works. It was a way to preserve the deliverance and salvation that they had already received by grace. They needed protection from three things.

  • The tabernacle sacrifices provide them with protection from the spiritual powers of evil.
  • The justice laws provided protection from internal conflict that could tear them apart.
  • The laws of separation and defence provided protection against attacks from the surrounding nations.

Works of Law

Theologians argue about what Paul meant by “works of the law” (Rom 3:20,28; Gal 2:16;3:2,5,10). They argue about which laws the expression describes, but this misses the point. Work of law are "works of law", not "responses to grace". When any law stops being grace for protection, and becomes a work to earn salvation or blessing, it is a work of law. Any law can stop being grace for protection and become an effort to earn blessing by works.

Paul was responding to Jews living under the domination of the Roman empire. This made it impossible to apply the justice laws and the Instructions for Economic Life. In this environment, it was easy to focus on the laws about food and the Sabbath that distinguished them from the Romans.

While living under Roman rule, they did not feel like that had been delivered by race, so it was easy to slip into trying to earn God’s blessing. Without a sense of God grace, it was easy to fall into the trap of turning Sabbath and food laws into works of law.

Messiah

Paul has been criticised for claiming that the Judaism was faulty. The issue is not that the Torah was faulty, but that it was incomplete and needed to be fulfilled.
  • The tabernacle sacrifices were effective for dealing with the spiritual powers of evil, but they pointed to Jesus. It was because they foreshadowed Jesus perfect sacrifice that they spiritual powers of evil had to accept them. Once Jesus died and rose again the temple sacrifices became redundant, because Jesus sacrifice did every that they tried to do, but more completely. That is why God shut them down in AD 70. When the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus, the temple sacrifices lost their efficaciousness, and the spiritual protection of the people and the temple was lifted.

    If the leaders of modern Israel rebuild the temple and start the sacrifices, they will not be effective for dealing with the spiritual powers of evil, because they would not point to Jesus.

  • The Torah also needed the Holy Spirit to be fulfilled. Without the fruit of the Spirit, loving your neighbour as yourself was almost impossible. Jesus death, resurrection and ascension opened the way for the Holy Spirit to be poured out. The Spirit was able to the Torah on the hearts of those who choose to serve Jesus.

If Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, it was natural that he would change Torah observance.
  • Jesus made the temple sacrifices and priesthood redundant. He expected people to trust his perfect sacrifice and redemption.
  • Jesus modified the Sabbath for an urban culture and re-focussed it on meeting human needs.
  • The feasts were fulfilled by Jesus and replaced with the Lord’s Supper.
  • Food laws were modified to allow his followers to take the gospel into alien cultures.
God’s system of justice and protection remained. Jesus declares that the laws of justice continued to be authoritative.

Jesus confirmed the Instructions for Economic Life and used them to restore village life. When he sent his disciples out on a mission, he told them to go to a village and stay with a person of peace. Their aim was not just to get converts, but to invigorate the Instructions for Economic Life to restore village communities to God’s model for economic life. The disciples took no money with them, so they would be dependent on giving and sharing for their survival. They would give healing and deliverance from evil spirits. The people of the village would give them food and shelter. The experience would jolt them into implementing the Instructions for Economic Life.

Jesus tightened the law for his followers by changing “love your neighbour” into “love one another”.

Big Box

The Torah is a big box. It contains the following.

  • Creation
  • History
  • Patriarchs
  • Genealogies
  • Land distribution
  • Covenant
  • Sacrifices
  • Tabernacle design
  • Priesthood
  • Feasts
  • Vows
  • Blesses and curses
  • Infection control
  • Food rules
  • Instructions for Economic Life
  • Judicial Laws
The judicial laws and the Instructions for Economic Life were really important protecting the peace and welfare of their society.

The Torah was not intended to make people righteous. That could only happen after the cross and the Spirit. The tabernacle sacrifices were given so that unrighteous people could have spiritual protection and be at peace with God.

Judaism

Although the Torah is grace, not works, Judaism at the time of Jesus and Paul was not really Torah-observant. Being controlled by the Romans, they could not apply the system of justice and defence that God gave in the Torah. They were also neglecting the Instructions for Economic Life. As Jesus pointed out, they were ignoring the weighty parts of the law like justice and economics. Instead, they were obsessed with the less important parts of the law, that distinguished them from the surrounding culture:

  • Food laws
  • Sabbath
  • Circumcision.
Perhaps these were the easiest to practice when living in a strange culture and wanting to be separate from it.

Note: Circumcision was not part of the law. It had been given to Abraham as a way of distinguishing his physical descendants.

Judaism had given up some important parts of the Torah as it accommodated with Roman and Greek culture. The point of the laws of separation was to provide spiritual protection from the evil spirits that surrounding nations carried. Once Jews had moved to living amongst the Romans and Greeks, refusing to eat with them was pointless, because they had already given up the spiritual protection that the Torah provided.

Gentiles

The civil laws in the Torah dealt with the following:
  • Assault
  • Murder
  • Theft
  • False Witness
  • Adultery/sexual immorality
  • Judicial process
  • War
  • Parents
  • Sabbath
  • Mixture
  • God
  • Blasphemy
Some theologians argue that Paul did not tell Jews to stop observing the Torah. They say that he only told the Gentiles to stop being Torah-observant. Once the full scope of the Torah laws is understood, it becomes clear that this is wrong.

Paul taught the Gentiles to obey the weightier parts of the Torah.

  • Paul taught gentile Christians to apply the Instructions for Economic Life. He supported giving and sharing within communities and between communities (2 Cor 8,9; Phil 4:10-19).)

  • Paul taught gentile Christians how to implement the justice and protection laws in their communities (1 Cor 5, 6:1-8; Rom 13:1).

  • He encouraged the application of laws about adultery and sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:9-19).

  • Paul encouraged children to honour their parents (Eph 6:1-3).

  • Paul encouraged a day of rest on the Lord’s day.

  • With regard to food, Paul focussed on meat that had been offered to idols. He explained that this was fine if Christians gave thanks to the Lord. Interestingly, the Torah did not forbid eating meat that had been offered to idols.


Monday, April 30, 2018

Nationalism and Religion

Nationalism substituted the nation for the deity, the citizen body for the church and the political kingdom for the Kingdom of God, but in every other respect replicated the forms and qualities of traditional religions.
AD Smith in Nationalism and Modernism.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Deceit and Lies

Daniel prophesied a terrible political power (beast) that would trample the earth. Its demise will bring a great victory for the Kingdom of God (Dan 7:27). (If this prophecy is to be fulfilled in our time, then there is only one nation powerful enough to fit).

Daniel says that when it rises to power.

It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground (Dan 8:12).
He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior (Dan 8:25).
Lies and deceit seem to be thriving in the current season.

More at Times and Seasons

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Love not Rules

The Instructions for Economic Life provide guidance to God’s people for living together in a new land. His main goal was that they learn to love their neighbours (Love 19:18).

God is not a control freak. He wants his people to be free, so he did not give detailed regulations spelt out in black and white, but gave general principles and left the people to work out how to apply them by thinking about how they could love their neighbour.

The Pharisees wanted detailed rules, down to the level of which herbs to tithe on (Matt 23:23). But God is not interested in rules-based behaviour, he wants love motivated behaviour. Following detailed rules is often easier because it does not require thinking, but that was not what God wanted. He gave general instructions for economic behaviour and left his people to work out want they meant while loving their neighbours.

The principle applies even more in the age of the Spirit. The Instructions for Economic Life are not detailed rules. They provide general boundaries, but our daily actions must be shaped by loving one another within their guidance (Rom 13:10). Likewise, the Holy Spirit does not give us detailed minute-by-minute instructions on what to do each day. He teaches us how to apply God’s general Instructions for Economic Life while living one another by prompting and questioning.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sports Nationalism

I find it rather bizarre when a competition between individual athletes is turned into a competition between nations. I suppose that it is better than fighting wars to decide who is best, but why do nations need to prove that they are better than other nations.

I also feel sorry for the athletes. They do all the hard training, but their nation takes much of the credit.

The concept of an individual athlete representing their country is quite odd. An elected politician cannot represent me, so how can an unelected athlete be my representative.

I am sure that many Christian are really stirred up about their nation's sports performance. I just wish they would be as stirred up about the Kingdom of God.

I am very wary of cheering for a national team. It is odd to say "We won" when all we did was sit on a couch, and perhaps cheer.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games are nearly over. Here in NZ we have had wall-to-wall television coverage, but I presume the people in the United States and Europe hardly knew they were on.

The so-called commonwealth is a purposeless group of nations connected to Britain as a residue of the British Empire. Originally, the games were called the Empire Games. The games were a way for the British to bring their colonies together and show their prowess off to the world.
The British Empire was renamed to the British Commonwealth when it colonies were given political freedom, while economic domination by Britain continued out of sight. Following the demise of British power post-World War 2, it is no longer called the British Commonwealth, but simply the Commonwealth. Although there is not much common wealth.

The wealthy nations of the commonwealth like Australia, Canada, and England like these games because their elite sports people can go for gold medals with some of the best competitors in their sport excluded and minor competition provided from some of the poorer or smaller countries of the world.

I am not sure what is the point of an international competition where three-quarters of the nations of the world are excluded. It is not really an international competition.

Gathering in one place for a big competition might have made sense back in the 1950s, when international travel was limited. Air travel has changed that. Now most sports have regular frequent international competitions, and most top athletes compete regularly with the best in the world, so getting a group of nations together for a pretend international competition does not make sense.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

International Hypocrisy

International hypocrisy has struck again in Syria.

Donald Trump (a man of great moral wisdom 😊) with support from the leaders of the UK and France have decided that Bashar al-Assad is evil and must be punished, without waiting for the official OPCW investigation to be completed. (The same intelligence agencies who were sure about WMD in Iraq are sure that they know what happened).

Meanwhile, Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is continuing his unprovoked war in Yemen without restraint. With US logistical support, the Saudi air force has bombed schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. Save the Children estimate that 5000 children have been killed. A Saudi blockade of Yemeni ports is shutting out imports of food, with the result that 400,000 of children are on the verge of starvation.

Yet Prince Salman is rewarded for his evil with a visit to the US Whitehouse. The leaders of the UK and France are falling over themselves to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Saudi.

Evil seems to look better when it is accompanied by oil wealth.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Blood of Jesus

Some Christians seem to be embarrassed by the blood of Jesus. This is sad because the blood is at the heart of the gospel.

We need to distinguish three things with regard to the blood.

  1. What the blood actually does in situ.
  2. How it is offered
  3. What it does when offered.
1. When it is in the body, of person or animal, it is life. We cannot live without it. It also carries antibodies to kill viruses. Once blood is outside the body, it quickly dries up and dies.

2. The only way it can be offered is by a death (of the animal or Jesus) if you exclude the other possibilities of the bloodletting by physicians in the 19th century, cannulation at a blood bank, or self-harming. I presume that the Bible has none of the latter in mind, so death is necessary for blood to be shared.

3. What blood achieves can only be discovered through revelation. 1) can only partially inform 3).

The translation of Hebrews 9:22 is misleading. Saying that blood produces “forgiveness”, makes it sound like the blood changes God’s attitude to us, ie God is changed. The word translated as forgiveness is “aphesis” which also means freedom. “Without blood there is no freedom”. This makes it clear that it is our situation that is changed by the blood, not God.

We are redeemed by the blood, ie bought back (Eph 1:7). If blood changes our situation and sets us free, the big question is who we are set free from. God does not enslave, so it must be the spiritual powers of evil that we are set free from.

More at Propititation and Redemption.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Free Book

The Kindle version of my book Being Church Where We Live is available free for two days beginning Saturday 7 April 2018 at 12:00 AM PDT.
Key Themes for Radical Christians

  • Building Relationships
  • Power Pairs
  • Making Disciples
  • Spiritual Protection
  • Balanced Ministry
  • Role of the Apostle
  • Prophets in the Church
  • Real Pastor/Teachers
  • Healing Evangelism
  • Dynamic Deacons

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Ressurection

The resurrection was a huge victory for Jesus.

  1. The resurrection took nothing away from the crucifixion. The pains and suffering of Jesus was not reversed. The penalty for sin was still paid. Redemption was available for all who would trust in Jesus.

  2. The resurrection was a huge defeat for the devil, who thought that he had killed the only real threat to his power. By rising from the dead, Jesus exposed the Devil’s weakness. He could not get Jesus to sin and he could not kill him, so he now was powerless against him. Jesus could go on and complete his mission and the devil was powerless against him. He could ascend into heaven beyond the reach of evil.

  3. The resurrection was a massive defeat for the principalities and powers that carry out the devil’s purposes. God used the resurrection to destroy their power.

    He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion (Eph 1:20.21).
    The principalities and powers had worked through the Roman empire and the Jewish religious to destroy Jesus. The resurrection turned their best efforts into failure.

  4. The resurrection proved that Jesus is the Messiah foretold by the Jewish prophets. David had prophesied that body of the Messiah would decay or be buried in a tomb.

    Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay (Acts 2:31).
    The world has had many would-be messiahs. Jesus is the only one who has risen from the dead. The resurrection confirmed that he is the saviour of the world.

  5. The resurrection was writing on the wall for human political powers. The resurrection proved that Jesus was Lord of all the earth.

    God has made this Jesus… both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:26).
    If Jesus is Lord, the Caesar is not. If Jesus is Lord, Obama is not. When Jesus was raised from the dead, God established him as the true king of earth. Human empires and powers that do not surrender to him will be swept eventually be swept away.

    The resurrection enthroned Jesus as King of Kings. All human principalities and powers will eventually have to surrender their authority to him. That should really have happened sooner.

  6. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he made this declaration.

    All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matt 28:18).
    This was after the resurrection, but before the ascension. All authority in heaven and earth had been given to Jesus. This was the consequence of the resurrection. Jesus had promised that the Kingdom of God was close. He had called for people to get ready for its coming. The resurrection marked the coming of the Kingdom of God, because the reward for his life and death struggle with the devil was authority over all the earth. The resurrection enthroned Jesus as King of Kings and brought in the Kingdom of God.

  7. The resurrection made it possible for Jesus to ascend into heaven and sit down at the right hand of God. His ascension was the final working out of his resurrection in fulfilment of Daniel's vision.

    In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Dan 7:13-14).
    The dominion that had been given to Adam and Eve, but was lost by them was restored to Jesus. Because he is at the right hand of the father, it can never be taken away, so his kingdom can never be destroyed. The kingdom established on the day of the resurrection can never pass away.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ransom

Redeem seems to be used in two senses in the scriptures. One where the redeemer pays a ransom to the kidnapper to set the enslaved person free. The second where the redeemer uses superior force to set the captive free. The Exodus was the second type. No ransom was paid to Pharaoh (except the deaths of firstborn and his army, but he paid that not the redeemer).

If Jesus death was a ransom, then the redemption must be the second type, where a ransom was paid to the kidnapper. God was the redeemer not the kidnapper/enslaver.

Christus Victor and ransom are not the same. Christus Victor would be a rescue like the exodus, where the enslaved people are rescued by superior force and no ransom is based.

Mark says that Jesus was a ransom, so the atonement is more like the second type of rescue where a ransom was paid. God paid the ransom by offering Jesus. The ransom was paid to the spiritual powers of evil who had enslaved humans at the fall. They used to the requirements of the law to demand death for sin. Paying the ransom robbed them of their power, so by being a ransom Christ ended up being victorious (Christus Victor).

Jesus was death was a punishment, but not one demanded by God. God had given Israel his law to enable them to live in peace in a new land. His approach to the penalties of the law was gracious. However, the spiritual powers of evil used the law against God to demand that the penalties specified by the law be paid in full. They said it would not be just, if humans were let off scot-free, and they were not. The accuser was able to indict humans for breaking the law, so he demanded the penalty specified by the law, which was death. So Jesus died in our place, as punishment demanded by the accuser, not one demanded by God.

God was happy to forgive, because he is gracious. But the spiritual powers of evil who love death and destruction demand that the full penalty be paid.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Caring for the Poor

The New Testament teaches Christians to care for the poor. People who understand this requirement have been drawn to support governments that introduce welfare programs. This approach to poverty has been a huge mistake.

Government welfare programs have to be operated by a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies have to be rule-driven organisations to ensure that funding is controlled. The bureaucrats who administer welfare programs have to apply the rules in an even-handed way. These rules leave no room for love, and very little scope for flexibility to deal with individual circumstances.

When it is your job to care for the poor, it is almost impossible not to become hard and harsh with people who have continually messed up. What love the bureaucrat had when they started tends to get overwhelmed and numbed by the hardship and suffering they deal with.

Without love, welfare is demeaning. Recipients lose their faith and self-respect. The consequence is that many recipients of government welfare get locked into poverty.

Handing responsibility for caring for the poor to the state has been a huge mistake by the Church. The justification was that the problem was too big for the church, so they wanted to marshal the greater resources of the state to the task. This is an illusion, because the state has made the problem worse, so even more resources are needed.

Christians should be more effective in dealing with poor than governments. Love is essential for the task, and we should be experts on love. The Holy Spirit gives Christians the strength to keep on loving in the face of persistent hardship and despair.

Escape from poverty often needs a change of heart and mind. The Holy Spirit is an expert on changes of heart, so people who can bring him to the task have a huge advantage.

Taking care of the problem of poverty would be a huge responsibility, but a great opportunity for the gospel. It would need massive resources, but Christians own a huge amount of unrighteous wealth that could be used for this challenge.

This article is not a justification for voting against welfare programs. You can’t replace something with nothing. Taking state welfare away before we have established something better would be cruel.

Rather if Christians got serous about caring for their neighbours who are poor (1 John 3:16-17) and once that was done, moving into poor neighbourhoods where there are no Christians, poverty would gradually disappear.

The need for state welfare programs would shrink and they would gradually disappear. Welfare budgets could be cut, because they would not be needed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Trade Wars

Donald Trump is angry about the US trade deficit. He blames manufacturing nations like China and Japan for ripping off America, so he is imposing tariffs on Chinese imports into the US to punish them.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump does not understand the economics of international trade, so he is attacking a symptom, rather than dealing with problem.

There are several reasons why the US has been running a trade deficit for many years.

  • The United States is a high-income country, (although many Americans are not feeling it.). High-income countries find it hard to compete with manufacturing from low-income countries. Multi-national countries tend to move their production to places in the world where educated labour is cheap. High-income countries have to concentrate on the highly-technical and capital-intensive manufacturing where they have an advantage. The United States has done well in this area, but it needs to do better because many blue-collar workers in the US are still directly competing with cheap labour in Asia.

  • Low oil prices and container have made the shipping of manufactured goods from Asia to the United States economic an economic activity.

  • The trade balance is only one part of the Balance of Payments, and they all interact with each other. The United States trade balance is the natural corollary to a surplus on the capital account.

  • The US dollar is the strongest currency in the world. Since the demise of the Bretton Woods system, many nations in the world hold their international reserves in US dollars. They do this by purchasing US dollar assets, mostly treasury bonds. This inflow of funds has given the US a surplus on its capital account, which has to be balanced by a deficit on its current account. The trade deficit is the direct consequence of the US dollar role as a reserve currency.

    The big benefit of this role is that the US has been able to import cheap manufactured goods without paying for them. The US has been able to engage in numerous overseas wars without paying the full cost. (Wars affect the Balance of Payments in the same way as imports because stuff needs to be purchased overseas. The difference is that they are blown up, rather than carried into the US). Wars and imports have been paid for with bits of paper (mostly US treasury bonds).

    Buying things with bits of paper is good if you can get away with it. Donald Trump does not like the Chinese buying US treasury bonds, however if he wants to stop that practice, the US will have to start paying for all its imports and wars.

  • One reason why the US dollar is popular as a reserve currency is that oil is mostly traded in US dollars. Following a spike in oil prices in 1974 the United States persuaded Saudi Arabia to only sell oil for dollars. The U.S. agreed to buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plough billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending. This dollar hegemony worked well for the US, so it has attacked countries like Libya that tried to sell oil for currencies other than the US Dollar. The petrodollar is becoming less important as US dependence on Middle East oil. However, if the US lets it go, the need for US dollar reserves would decline and the trade balance would improve, but US economic hegemony would weaken. I am not sure that this is what Donald Trump wants.

  • The United States congress has consistently approved budgets that do not balance for many years. The ongoing budget deficits have to be paid for by issuing treasury bonds. If these were only sold within the United States, interest rates would have to rise significantly. No one wants that, so many of the treasury bonds are sold outside the United States with the Chinese being the main buyer. If the US balanced its budgets, the supply of treasury bonds would shrink dramatically, and the US surplus on its capital account would shrink too. This would have a positive effect on the trade deficit, but no US politician is interested in that solution.

The US trade deficit is mostly the result of decisions made within the US that have produced a surplus on the capital account. Without getting rid of that surplus, the trade deficit is likely to remain, whether or not Donald Trump engages in a trade war.

The Chinese may have manipulated their currency to make sure that they get their share of the US trade deficit. This does not harm the US. They benefit from the cheap televisions and refrigerators. Rather it harms other manufacturing/exporting countries (especially in Asia) that get squeezed out of the US market.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Sabbath

After God rescued his people from Egypt, he told them what he expected of them.

The main thing that he told them to do so was to do nothing for a day.

Not just a day. He told them to take a day off every week for the rest of their lives.

That is grace.

Yet many Christians manage to turn this into hard work.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

House Church

I sense that the house church movement in New Zealand has peaked. My experience is that most house churches were started by people frustrated with existing churches. They knew what they did not like, but they did not have a clear vision of what God wanted to establish. Many brought baggage with them.

Most still wanted to receive the “services” that they thought traditional churches were not providing adequately.: good teaching, good worship, etc. The list is quite long. Church leaders were soon exhausted trying to provide these services. Members remained frustrated because the level of service did not match their expectations.

The people who joined House Churches had not been reaching out to the lost people of the world from their traditional churches, so they did not do any different when they got into a house church. Consequentially, house churches had very little success in sharing the gospel.
A house church that does not have new believers coming in gets very self-centred. New believers are often disruptive in a good way. Existing members grow by putting their energies into discipling and teaching them. Without this challenge, they get bored and grumpy. Their house church becomes quite inward looking.

I don’t think many people in New Zealand caught the vision I shared in Being Church Where We Live. It has been more popular overseas.
I am not despondent. I still think that the vision I shared is the best way for followers of Jesus to support each other through a season of persecution or economic shaking. I still think it is the only way the Church as a whole could absorb a massive number of people coming to faith in Jesus, if we had revival in New Zealand.

I am not sure which of these two possibilities is most likely.

Friday, March 23, 2018

North Korea

Prophetic Christians are declaring the people of North Korea are going to come to faith in Jesus in massive numbers. Many other are praying that this will happen.

This seems a bit naïve. Why would the people of North Korea turn to Christianity when a Christian nation is threatening to destroy them? When a Christian leader is threatening to nuke them if they don’t submit to him.

Many Koreans remember how the American bombers wrecked their cities and land, killing thousands of civilians in 1952. They fear it will happen again.

In this context, military threats are not the best method of pre-evangelism.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Words Change

Words are strange. Over time their meaning can change. Sometimes a good word can have stopped being used. The word “household” is an example. It is still used by statisticians, but in a very narrow way, as all the people living a dwelling (sharing meals together). They conduct household surveys and publish so-called household statistics. Most users would prefer family statistics, but family are a fluid concept and hard to measure, especially if members of a family live in different dwellings.

Despite this technical usage, the word household has gone out of normal usage, probably because we no longer have households with servants or extended family members in them. People talk about family, ie Mum (Dad) and children. In New Zealand, we have the Maori word “whanau” for the wider extended family. People speak of their “whanau”, but never talk about their household. Marketers used to address junk mail to “The Householder”, but they have stopped doing that because they realised the word is no longer has any meaning here.

I am not sure what Christians think when they read about the Household of God in the Ephesians, if they have not had teaching about the nature of ancient households.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph 2:17).
At least with the word “kingdom”, people have a residual idea from nursery stories and television shows like “Game of Thrones”.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tithing (8) Religious Leaders

Malachi does not advocate tithing to support religious leaders. He actually condemned the actions and teaching of the priests before he spoke to the rest of the people.

And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honour my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honour me (Malachi 2:1-2).
God was unhappy with the religious leaders. They were not honouring him, so they lost his blessing. He did not want more wealth going to them.

Preachers who use Malachi to advocate tithing should read all his message. Malachi is blunt about those who twist God’s word.

For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble (Malachi 2:7-8).
The tithing teaching twists God’s way from faith and grace into doing good works to earn his favour. The tithing teachers claim that they have been blessed with prosperity because they have tithed. They say that those who are struggling financially are suffering because they have not tithed. This turns prosperity into a reward for doing good works.

God is gracious. His way is always:

Receive Do
He blesses us and expects us to serve him as an expression of his gratitude. Jesus died for us, while we were his enemies. In response to the gift of salvation, we serve him. This was the message of the gospel. It was also true in the Old Testament. He rescued his people from Egypt and blessed them with freedom before he gave the law describing how they should live as redeemed people.

Religions are always the other way around:

Do Receive
People who do what the religion requires might receive a blessing.

The Old Testament teaching on tithing was:

Receive Do
When you have received God’s blessing, take some of it and enjoy a celebration. Bless others by sharing with them.

The modern teaching on tithing is the other way around.

Do Receive
Do something first. Give a tithe to the church, and then you will receive the blessing of prosperity. If you don’t do, you will not receive.

Malachi would say that those who teach this way have failed to “preserve knowledge” for those “seeking instruction” and “caused many to stumble” (Malachi 2:7-8).

This full series is available on Kingdom Watcher at Tithing

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tithing (7) Robbing God

Malachi is the favourite prophet of preachers advocating tithing. They claim that those who fail to tithe are robbing God and have placed themselves under a curse.

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty (Malachi 3:8-10).
This is a strong word, but it must not be taken out of context. Malachi begins his message by challenging the economic injustice that is prevalent in Israel.
I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty (Malachi 3:5).
The people were practising sorcery and adultery. They were committing perjury and oppressing widows, orphans and aliens. They were not paying employees fair wages for their work. They seemed to be ignoring most of God’s Instructions for Economic Life. God did not seem to be worried about lack of resources at the temple. He was worried about tithing, because his people were not caring for the poor and needy, as required by the Instructions for Economic Life.

The prophet declared the people of Israel were ignoring all God’s commands, not just those about tithing. This is why they had lost his blessing.

Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty (Malachi 3:6-7).
Malachi was challenging general disobedience of God’s commands. Failure to tithe in support of the poor was just one sin amongst many, but God wanted that sorted out first, because he cares for the poor.

When Malachi said that they were robbing God (Mal 3:8), he was referring back to the Law of Moses.

Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and... your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. (Exodus 22:22-23).
When people take advantage of widows and orphans, God is offended. He will come to their aid (Ex 22:24).
Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge… for I will not acquit the guilty (Exodus 23:6-7).
People who treat the poor badly are offending God. He will remove their blessing. Malachi challenged the people for withholding tithes because the poor were suffering and God was upset.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tithing (6) New Testament

The truth that tithing is redundant is confirmed by the fact that it is rarely mentioned in the New Testament. Tithing is mentioned or three occasions.

  • The letter to the Hebrews links Jesus to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7). The passage describes Abrahams tithe to Melchizedek, but it does not link tithing forward to followers of Jesus. It just describes a situation that existed before the law had been given, without any application of tithing to the present. This passage cannot be used to justify tithing under the new covenant.

  • Jesus criticised the scribes and Pharisees for forcing people to tithe on herbs.

    Woe to you Pharisees, because you take a tenth of mint, rue and other garden herbs, but you are passing by justice and the love of God. Now these it was binding for you to do, and not let go those (Luke 11:42).
    Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are taking tithes of spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you are leaving the heavier matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. Now, these it was binding for you to do, and not leave those (Matt 23:23).
    The scribes and Pharisees were placing a burden on the people that was too heavy to bear. This was an unfair use of the law.
    When Jesus was speaking, the temple was still functioning, and the Levites were still undertaking their service, so the two roles for tithing specified in the law were still practical, although they were mostly being neglected. However, Jesus never stated that he expected his followers continue tithing after his death and resurrection. This is a massive gap for those who expect Christians to tithe.

  • The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) is part of a series of parables about unrighteous wealth. Jesus explained in this parable that tithing on unrighteous wealth does not make it righteous. The righteousness of wealth depends on how it is acquired, not on how much is tithed. Acquisition of wealth must be consistent with God’s Instructions for Economic Life. The Pharisee failed to meet that standard, so he was benefiting from unrighteous wealth. His wealth looked fine on the outside, but it was actually no better than the tax collector’s. The tax collector knew he was living unrighteous wealth, whereas the Pharisee did not.

These are the only references to tithing in the New Testament, and none of them state that followers of Jesus are expected to tithe. Because the temple sacrifices would come to an end and the temple would be destroyed, and the Levites would be scattered around the world, the role of tithing would need to change if it was to continue into the New Testament age. Jesus, or one of the New Testament writers, would have explained that change and described the new role for tithing, but that was not done. Therefore we can assume that tithing does not carry through to people living in the new covenant.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Tithing (5) New Covenant

The tithe had two purposes.

  • Food for a celebration feast at Jerusalem three times a year.
  • Material support for the Levites and other poor people living in their towns.
These purposes for tithing do not carry forward into the New Testament. Jesus made the perfect sacrifice on the cross, so the tabernacle/temple sacrifices became redundant. Jesus fulfilled the feasts. There is no temple for us to visit, so it is not possible to take produce and have a celebration meal at the temple. Once the gospel went to the world, returning to Jerusalem for feast became impossible.

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. He lives within us, so we can celebrate in his presence every day. A shared meal with the body of believers that we belong to fulfils the role of the feasts. Followers of Jesus, are expected to share food with other believers when the body of Jesus meets to celebrate the Lord’s supper.

Similarly, there are no Levites serving at the temple needing the tithe for their income. Giving to the Levites was rural to urban giving. This may be needed in the body of Jesus, but it will be prompted by the Holy Spirit, not by a rule to be obeyed.

God still cares for the poor. While under the law, the Holy Spirit had not been given in fullness, so people need a rule for giving to the poor. Specifying a tenth ensured that people were generous. Under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit has been poured out on all who believe. He can lead his people into generous giving. In the book of Acts, there was no tithe, but they gave to everyone who had need.

They shared everything they had. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32-34).
Generous caring and sharing led by the Holy Spirit is more effective than tithing.

God still expects his people to care for widows, orphans and disabled. In the New Testament that takes place through giving and sharing (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Tim 5:3-16). He also expects that churches will support each other when the need arises (2 Cor 8,9). These activities are led by the Holy Spirit, not by a rule of the tenth.

Under the new covenant, there is no temple, and no Levites caring for it, so the role of the tithe has disappeared. Tithing is replaced by generous giving and sharing led by the Holy Spirit. Deacons were appointed to direct giving to the poor.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tithing (4) Caring for Levites

The Levites were one of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are the descendants of Levi, who was Jacob’s third son. The Levites were called to serve God. They were responsible for carrying and maintaining the tabernacle while the children of Israel travelled through the wilderness into the promised land.

Aaron was a Levite. The priests serving in the temple were always selected from his descendants, ie one branch of the Levite tribe.
The Levites were not allocated agricultural land when they entered the promised land (Num 18:21-24). Instead, they were allocated forty cities spread throughout the land.

The towns of the Levites in the territory held by the Israelites were forty-eight in all, together with their pasturelands (Jos 21:41).
Once the temple was built in Jerusalem, the Levites were rostered times to serve there (1 Chron 24:20-31). Some Levite families were rostered to be singers and musicians in the temple (1 Chron 25). Other families were rostered to be gatekeepers and ushers, ensuring that people visiting the temple knew where to go (1Chon 26:1-19). Other Levite families maintained the storehouses in which offerings made to the temple were stored until they were needed (1Chon 26:1-19).

The Levites spent some of their time serving in the temple, and they had not been allocated agricultural land, so they might not be able to produce enough to support themselves. God provided for the Levites through the tithe (Deut 18:1-2).

Do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands (Deut 14:27-29).
When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied (Deut 26:12).
At the end of every third year, the tithe was to be taken to their own towns and stored to be available for the Levites, and others who are poor (Amos 4:4). Some commentators have argued that this is a second tithe, on top of the one to be taken to Jerusalem, but the text in Deuteronomy does not say that. (It makes God seem mean, whereas, the tithe represented his generosity). I think it is more consistent with his grace that every third year, the people did not need to take their tithe to the temple but were to take into their towns and give it to the Levites. The Levites were responsible for distributing some of this food to foreigners, widows, and orphans.

According to the census taken in the wilderness, the Levites were only a small tribe. The largest tribe Judah was four times as large. The Levites were less than a twentieth of the population, so they did not need a tenth of the food produced every year. They were able to engage in productive activities when they were not rostered to the temple, so they did not need to get all their upkeep from the tithe. They had pasturelands around their towns (Jos 21:41), so they would be able to keep some of the livestock for milk and wool.

Getting a tenth of the nation’s production every would be more than they needed. Getting the tithe every third year would be enough for them to live well. The law does not specify a national standard for the third year. People could choose which year they stayed at home, provided that it was every third year. This could mean that the Levites might get a third of the tithe every year.

This is more grace. The Levites received a gift to sustain their life. The Israelites got the gift of a year off from travel to the temple.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tithing (3) Eat with the Lord

Leviticus says that the tithe belongs to the Lord, but we have to go to Deuteronomy for teaching about how it should be given to the Lord. The tithe was to be eaten in the presence of the Lord as a celebration.

You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and olive oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts. Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God will choose—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns—and you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to (Deut 12:17-18).
This is surprising. The tithe is to be eaten by the people who gave it as a celebration. However, they are to not to eat in their own towns. The tithes were to be eaten near his tabernacle in Jerusalem, where the presence of the Lord dwelt. The tabernacle was eventually replaced by Solomon’s temple. The tithe was to be eaten in the presence of the Lord’s as a celebration of his goodness.
At first thought, it does not seem possible for the people to eat a tenth of their production during a celebration. However, the Israelites were expected to visit Jerusalem, three times a year
  • Passover — 1 week plus a sabbath
  • Feast of Weeks — 2 days
  • Feast of Tabernacles — 1 week plus a sabbath.
A trip to Jerusalem would take two or three days there and a similar time to get back. Thus, a family would spend the following times in Jerusalem or travelling their and back.
  • Passover — 2 weeks
  • Feast of Weeks — 1 week and a day
  • Feast of Tabernacles — 2 weeks.
An Israelite family would spend 5 weeks plus a day away from home each year. This is a tenth of their time (5.15 / 52 = 10). While they were away, they would need to eat. While travelling, the wastage of food would be greater. In addition, they usually made a contribution to priests for sacrifices at the temple (Lev 23:8,19,36)

Each family was expected to take their servants, the Levites, widows, orphans and foreigners living in their town with them to enjoy the celebration in the Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks (Deut 16:11) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut 16:14).

Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. (Deut 16:14-15).
The entire community was to be included in the celebration. The families with crops were expected to share their tithe with other people from their community.

Families would be away from home celebrating the feasts for a tenth of their time. They were expected to share with others during that time, so it is not surprising that they would consume a tenth of what they produce during their visits to Jerusalem.

The tithe demonstrates the graciousness of God. He says that the tithe belongs to him because he created the earth and gave its produce to the people. Then he tells them that they can consume his share in a magnificent celebration. He takes a portion of the what he had blessed his people with and gives it back to them as a blessing they can use for a celebration. What amazing generosity and kindness.

Travel Costs
If people had to travel a long way to Jerusalem and carrying the tithe was too difficult, they could sell it for silver, and buy what they needed when they got to Jerusalem.

If that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD our God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice (Deut 14:24-26).
This practice made life simpler, but it had a cost. The person tithing would be selling their produce at a place where many other people would be selling. When they got to Jerusalem, everyone would be buying. They would be selling in a weak market for low prices and buying in a tight market for high prices. Therefore, by swapping their tithe for silver, they would lose out. Only those with really good crops would be able to afford this economic loss.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tithing (2) Law or Grace

Most biblical teaching on tithing is in the Law of Moses. Most Christians respond to this by saying that we live under grace, not law, so that we can ignore commands about tithing. This response is too simplistic.

God gave his laws to Moses to provide a system of government that would allow people to live in relative peace in a new land. These laws are still God's standard of justice. God also included Instructions for Economic Life to guide their economic interaction. The still stand. The law of Moses also provided a system of sacrifices to deal with sin until Jesus should come and deal with it completely. These sacrifices were fulfilled by Jesus, so they are no longer applicable to his followers.

The Law of Moses provide wisdom for dealing with numerous issues that still exist, so we cannot just say that the entire law of Moses is redundant, because it is replaced by grace. We must assess each group of commands and decide if they have been fulfilled by Jesus. We no longer need to obey those that he has fulfilled, such as the tabernacle sacrifices. However, there are other laws that are still relevant. We must decide which category the commands about tithing belong to, before choosing to ignore them.

The Hebrew word for tithing means “tenth”. Tithing is defined in Leviticus.

A tenth of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD (Lev 27:30).
A tenth of everything that grows on the land belongs to God. This includes grain and fruit from trees.
Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD. No one may pick out the good from the bad (Lev 27:32-33).
A similar principle applies to domestic animals. The phrase “passes under the shepherd’s road” is not clear. I presume that this refers to all new animals that are born into the flock or herd. If God took a tenth of the entire flock each year, it would almost disappear after ten years. It makes more sense that a tenth of animals that are born belong to the Lord.

The animals that belong to the Lord must be selected randomly. The farmer cannot pick out which ones he will give because the might be tempted to keep the best ones for himself.

Redeeming the Tithe
If the farmer wants to keep some of the grain from the tithe, he can swap it for money, but he must pay an extra fifth.

Whoever would redeem any of their tithes must add a fifth of the value to it (Lev 27:31).
If the farmer wants to keep some of the grain or livestock for breeding, he might decide to redeem it. Similarly, if the tithe is too difficult to transport to the temple, he might decide to swap if for money that is easier to carry. The person redeeming some of their tithe must pay an extra fifth.

Leviticus allowed the farmer to swap a tithed animal for another if it is needed for breeding, but the animal that is swapped cannot be redeemed.

If anyone does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed (Lev 27:33).

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tithing (1)

I am frequently asked about tithing. Many sincere Christians have been made to feel guilty if they do not tithe. They want to know if the scriptures require tithing. The answer is that the commands to tithe are all in the Old Testament. We need to assess each of these commands to determine if they still apply under the new covenant established by Jesus death and resurrection.
Bad Start
Tithing got off to a bad start.

The first recorded example of a person tithing is Abraham (Gen 14:17-22). When he had defeated the kings who had captured Lot along with several neighbouring kings, Abraham met Melchizedek, who was king of Jerusalem. He brought bread and water out to Abraham. Melchizedek was a priest of the most high God, so he blessed Abraham.

It seems that Melchizedek had established an order of priests to serve God. The scriptures don’t tell us how he came to know about God, but I presume God called and he answered.

Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had plundered. Melchizedek said that he did not want it. However, it seemed that Abraham had made a vow to God that if he would give him a tenth of the plunder if he blessed him in the battle. The only way that he knew to give it to God was to give it to Melchizedek, the priest, so he insisted that he take it. If Melchizedek refused to take the loot, Abraham would be breaking his vow. The mention of the oath seemed to satisfy Melchizedek.
We should notice several things about this incident.

  • God did not ask for the tithe.

  • Melchizedek did not ask for it, and did not want. He was a king, so he had plenty of wealth.

  • Abraham did not understand grace. At this stage of his life, he thought he needed to promise something to God to obtain his blessing. This was an attempt to manipulate God, by doing a deal with him.

Abraham later came to understand God’s grace. He realised that God blessed him because he loved him and because Abraham trusted God (Romans 4:16,17).

The second incident involving tithing was a promise to God that Jacob made when he was leaving home. He promised a tenth of everything to God if he watched over him and kept him safe (Gen 29:20-22). This was manipulation. Jacob was a conniver. He did deals with everyone he met to try to get ahead. In this instance, he tried to do a deal with God. The scriptures do not record whether Jacob actually kept his promise and tithed.

Jacob thought he needed to make a promise to get God on his side. He was wrong. God had chosen to bless him. God chose Jacob because he loved him (Rom 9:14), despite his deceitfulness and manipulation, not because he promised to give wealth to God. No one can out give God.

Tithing got off to a bad start, as the first two examples in the scriptures were situations where people tried to do a deal with God. They committed to tithing if God would agree to bless them. This is still a common reason for tithing. People tithe to their church, believing that God will bless them in return by multiplying their wealth. This is manipulation, not grace and faith.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Shaking

Many years ago (1977) I had a vision of an economic shaking affecting New Zealand, but it could only be effective if a remnant of Christians were prepared. I believe that God has attempted to allow this shaking several times, but he has always had to hold back because the remnant was not prepared so that the shaking would do more harm than good.

I have been sensing for a while that evil has now progressed so much more, that God now has no choice, but to allow the shaking to prevent evil getting worse, even though his people are not prepared.

When that shaking comes, it will be quite scary because no one is prepared. His followers who have been comfortable in the world will be really scared, as the darkness will be intense. They will flee to the church for safety, but it will seem to be falling apart. The Holy Spirit will be trying to tell his people what to do, but they will be so overwhelmed by the darkness and confusion that they will not be able to hear what he is saying.

During this time, prophetic people will need to deliver God’s word boldly. Not condemning or judging, but explaining clearly to his people what they need to do for safety and to prepare for the next season. This will be especially necessary when the shaking pauses. Prophetic people will challenge God’s people not to go back to what they were doing, but to prepare for what lies ahead.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Place

Place is important, but...

If you sit in Starbucks or McDonalds, you meet a sample of people from the catchment the restaurant draws from. If you build them into a church, you still have a gathered church, just it is gathered from the same catchment has the restaurant.

To really do place, you need to live in a neighbourhood, and walk among and serve your neighbours. You need some other followers of Jesus living in the same place, so people in the immediate neighbourhood, can see you loving each other.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gun Violence (6) Spiritual

The issues described in previous posts are contributory, but they are not the main cause of gun violence in the United States. The main cause is spiritual. The main political spirits and government spirits with a stronghold in the United States are the following.

  • religious spirit
  • good works
  • violence
  • fighting and war
The problem is not guns, and it is not people. The problem in the United States is the violent evil spirits that have easy access to young people across the nation. People who are worried about gun violence should be asking why evil spirits of violence have such a strong hold on the nation.

I guarantee that one thing is present in each school shooting: an evil spirit. I presume that in every case it is a spirit of violence.

The solution is not gun control, but evil spirit control.

It is strange that a nation with such a strong Christian influence does not understand how to deal with this powerful principality and power. The problem is that the spirit of violence permeates American life: from the federal government to international relations, through culture and entertainment, and onto life on the street. It has been there a long time, but it is now more entrenched. Unfortunately, the American people are so familiar with this spirit that they do not notice it, except when it breaks out into a school or shopping mall.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Gun Violence (5) Culture and Entertainment

The films and television programs that come out of the United States are full of violence and guns. I presume this has an effect on some of the young people who watch it. I presume that it opens the door to spirits of violence.

We see the same films and television dramas, but we recognise the culture as American, and different from ours. We don’t expect to see these things here. Our police don’t look like that.

I presume that American’s see these films and televisions as representing their culture. They are much closer to everyday life there, so their effect will be more powerful. I presume the impact of the cultural message is stronger when you are seeing it in your situation, not somewhere way over there.

When television and movies fill the living rooms of the nation with violence and war, and political leaders exult in military force and war as the solution to most problems, it is not surprising that the same violent spirit manifests in the nation’s youth.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Gun Violence (4) Zeal for War

Something that stands out as different about American culture is the zeal for war. The United States has military personnel stationed and fighting all over the world. American special forces seem to be entitled to go into any country in the world and fight. Judging from the blogosphere, Americans believe that all these military forces are doing good.

The problem is that the evidence for that view is missing. In recent years, American supported or controlled military invasions have wrecked Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, but faith in the ability of military force to solve problems has not been shaken. Even when civilians are killed by American bombs, it just bad luck. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, while the bombers were doing good.

The attitude is very different here. New Zealanders did there fair share during the world wars, and more in Korea and Vietnam. Because of these experiences, very few New Zealanders believe that war is the solution to every problem.

This zeal for war goes right back to the foundation of America. Whereas all other British colonies were able to negotiate independence, Americans fought a war. Whereas most other western countries passed legislation to ban slavery, Americans fought a war. Even Christian Americans till believe the myth that these wars were necessary, despite the terrible loss of life and suffering.

I presume that the American zeal for war as a solution to every problem is one reason why the spirit of violence has made its home in the nation.

Military Cadets
One consequence of this difference is that America still has military training in schools and universities. Thes seems to feed the interest and faith in guns.

When I was in high school, we still had military cadets (a legacy from World War 2) for the first two weeks of the term. Most of us hated it because all we did was march around in the summer sun. The school had a rifle range, but very little ammunition. During the three years, I was at school, I only ever got to fire two 0.22 rounds. The rifle range was a big concrete wall. The main use of it was by students to hide while smoking cigarettes where teachers and prefects could not see them.

Fortunately, military cadets are gone from our schools.

Teaching impressionable young people to fight seems to be very important in American schools. Does this trust in guns feed violence?

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Gun Violence (3) Protection against the State

Many Americans seem to believe that they need a gun to protect themselves from an evil government. They see the right to own a gun as a bulwark against political dictatorship.

This view does not exist in New Zealand. Many people hate their government. Some hate all governments. But none of them see armed rebellion as a solution. They realise that is a fight that cannot be won.

The American hope seems to be totally unrealistic. When governments go rogue, they also have the power of guns on their side. The rogue state will win all the battles, because it is ruthless, and has the best weapons.

If a swat team turned up to disarm and American who has chosen to fight against their government, they will be quickly be outnumbered and overcome.

The American government could be going rogue already, but by the time most Americans wake up, it will be too late for resistance. Over recent years, the federal government has dramatically increased its powers. It now takes a large proportion of income as tax. Its ability to control people has increased significantly. Rather than resist, most Americans have gone along, because they do not want their comfort to be disturbed.

I don’t know anyone who wants a gun so they can fight against the government, if it gets out of control. That seems to be a big difference between here and the United States. Faith in guns as protection against political tyranny is an odd belief. It seems to be a strange thing to teach young people.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Gun Violence (2) Fear

Many people in America seem to be afraid and buy a gun for protection. One educated man brought a gun after a stranger visited his house and scared his wife (without doing harm). It seems that many Americans who are afraid think their best option is to buy a gun.

There are plenty of evil people in New Zealand, but people do not seem to be responding in the same way. It is not that they expect the government to protect them from these evil people.

There are plenty of places where I would not go, because nasty people live there, but I do not need to go to those places anyway. The only situation where we would meet with these people would be at work, when they are subdued, and often scared.

There are plenty of guns in New Zealand, but shootings tend to be limited to suicides, domestic violence, where a gun gives no protection, and warfare between gangs and their associates.

I grew up in the country. We lived a mile away from our nearest neighbours. The lock on the door of house was broken and could not be locked. My Dad had a 0.22 for shooting feral rabbits, but we never felt like we needed a gun to protect us from intruders.

I have never encountered an evil person face to face on my own. I don’t know many people who have. I have never been in a situation, where I felt like I needed a gun to protect me from evil people.

There are plenty of people here in New Zealand who are afraid. Their response is to put up a fence and buy a big dog. Very few would think about getting a gun to protect themselves.

I prefer to trust God. I believe that a big angel provides better protection of my home than a big dog or a big gun.

The best protection from evil people is to belong to a strong community of people committed to loving each other.

The fear of evil and the desire for guns as protection from it seems to be unique to the United States.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Gun Violence (1)

I have been watching with interest the debate in the United States about gun violence. People are alarmed by school shootings and want solutions.

Gun Control
People are clamouring for government action to limit the availability of guns. Unfortunately, that horse bolted long ago. There are millions of guns in the United States. Even if the government totally banned the sale of guns, they would still be readily available.

Black markets would emerge and people who wanted guns would find them. The Prohibition demonstrates the limited power of government controls. Government regulation cannot prevent people from buying things, if they want them badly enough. I find it ironic that Christians who believe in “grace not law”, seem to think that law can solve the problem of gun violence. Violence is a problem of the heart.

Opponents
Americans who oppose gun control claim that people kill people, not guns. That is true, but trite. They suggest a number of reasons for violence in schools.

  • Mental illness
  • Break down of family life
  • Absent fathers
are their favourites.

The problem with these explanations is that we have all these ills here in New Zealand, but we don’t have school shootings like in America. This suggests that there is a deeper reason for the rabid violence there. I have observed several different aspects of the American attitude to guns that are uniquely different.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

By His Stripes (5)

Sickness is tough to deal with. Resisting Satan while standing alone is difficult. It is hard to have faith when burdened with sickness. Resisting is hard when we are weak or unwell. We need others to stand with us and do battle on our behalf. If we are under attack by sickness, it is hard to stand alone. This is the main reason that the modern church does not have victory over sickness. Christians are often isolated, so Satan is able to pick them off one at a time. Christians have compassion for friends who are sick, and often ask God to heal them, but they rarely go into battle with them.

Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus (2 Tim 4:20). This is the only case of sickness in New Testament that was not healed. There is no explanation, but Paul complains that his colleagues had deserted him and left him alone. I presume that he was isolated and under pressure, so he did not have the strength to overcome the attack on Trophimus. No one was standing with him.

Victory over sickness comes from being in relationship with Christian friends, who will go into battle against a sickness attack and push through to victory.

Christians need to be with people who have victory over sickness.

Two or three people have more authority than one standing on their own. The sick person might not be that confident in resisting sickness. If some friends join in declaring that the sickness has no legal right to be in his body, the sick person will be more resolute.

The faith of friends can be really important.

  • The paralytic had friends with faith for him to be healed (Luke 5:18).
  • The man by the pool had no friends to stand with him (John 5:5-7).
A sick person may be so overwhelmed that they struggle to have faith and speak with authority. The key thing that the friends can add is extra faith.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

By His Stripes (4)

In John 15, Jesus told his followers to abide in him. If we are abiding in Jesus, then underserved sickness cannot affect us, because Jesus takes it up and carries the pain on our behalf. If Jesus has experienced pain on our behalf, we should not have symptoms. He has already experienced that pain, when he was beaten and bruised, so we should not feel it.

In contrast, a person who does not remain in Jesus will wither away, shrunken by sickness and disease (John 15:6).

Jesus made a special promise to those who trust him.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7).
When sickness strikes, those who understand Jesus teaching about healing should ask him to take it from them. We should give it to him, so he can bear it for us.
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love (John 15:10).
After asking him to take the sickness, he will tell us what to do. We must do exactly what he says.
  • Jesus told the blind man to go to pool of Siloam and wash his eyes. By sending him to do something that did not make sense, he gave the blind man an opportunity to show that he trusted him.

  • Naaman was a good man, so his leprosy was an undeserved sickness inflicted by the spiritual powers of evil. Elijah told Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan river. This seemed stupid to him, but while he was bathing, he was healed.

  • Jesus told the ten lepers who asked to be healed to go and show themselves to the priests. While they were on their way, they were healed. Their faithful obedience to Jesus released their healing (Luke 17:14).

Each of these people, proved their faith by their obedience.

Faithful obedience = healing

Jesus is quite likely to tell us to do something that will prove our faith. When we are attacked by underserved sickness he may require us to something that does not make sense to us to prove our faith. Faith demonstrates to the spiritual powers of evil that we are in Jesus. They cannot argue with faith. They cannot cheat against faith. Actions that demonstrate faith, destroy their ability to attack us with underserved sickness.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

By His Stripes (3)

Jesus carried our undeserved sicknesses and absorbs their pain for us when we are attacked by the spiritual powers of evil.

Jesus was beaten by the temple guards and groups of Roman soldiers. He did not deserve to be beaten, but his pain was real. This pain takes the place of our real, but underserved sickness.

Jesus was God become man, so the underserved beating he received has infinite value, sufficient to cancel all the undeserved sickness and pain that the spiritual powers of evil can try to inflict on his followers.

If we are united with Jesus, then the attacks of sickness and disease are shifted from us to him. He takes that sickness and pain and bears it on our behalf. The pain and discomfort that the spiritual powers of evil wanted to inflict on us is shifted to him. Everything they throw at us should fail because Jesus has already experienced it. We shouldn’t feel the pain, because Jesus already bore that pain, when he was beaten without cause. They should not be able to inflict anything on us, because it immediately shifts to him and is nullified.

Faith in him makes this possible, because it unites us with Jesus. The key to faith is obeying what he tells us to do.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

By His Stripes (2)

John 9 is a good place to start, because it is the clearest example of sickness that was undeserved. Jesus is clear that neither the sin of the man, nor of his parents, was the cause of his blindness (John 9:3). The blindness was an undeserved sickness.

The question that immediately arises is why Jesus spat in the clay and made a paste of clay and spittle and rubbed it on the mans eyes? The clay clearly did not heal the man. The spit did not heal him. It is the Holy Spirit who heals, so we should not look for healing properties in the spit or the clay.

The mud gave the man a task to do. Jesus told him to go and wash off the mud in the pool of Siloam. This was an odd thing to ask. The man knew that mud could not restore his eyes. Going to a pool in another place would be quite hard for a man who was blind. It would have been easier to go home and do it, or get some water where he was. Although Jesus instructions seemed pointless, he trusted Jesus and obeyed his instructions.

When he washed his eyes at Siloam, the Holy Spirit healed his eyes and restored his sight.

Obeying Jesus and washing at the pool was an act of faith. While he was obeying in faith, he was healed. Faith healed him.

John points out that Siloam means “sent” (John 9:7). This confirms that Jesus gave the man a task to do. He sent him to do something.

He did not need to remain with Jesus. Rather, he had to trust Jesus and go where he sent him and do what he had told him to do.

Faithful obedience was the key to his healing.

When the man came back healed, he testified to the Pharisees.

Jesus made mud, and he put on mud, and he sent me,
and I washed, now I see (John 9:15).

He did not give glory to the mud. He gave credit to Jesus.

He is a prophet (John 9:17).
By responding to the hostility of the Pharisees so boldly, he continued to show faith.
If this man were not from God, he could do nothing (John 9:33).
This bold testimony confused the Pharisees. He responded to Jesus questions by declaring his allegiance to Jesus.
Lord, I believe (John 9:38).
Bold testimony = faith and allegiance.

How was this man healed? When he trusted in Jesus, Jesus was able to take his sickness and carry it for him. Jesus took up and carried whatever undeserved sickness the man had, so he was immediately freed from it. Jesus took it from him, so he did not need to bear it.