Saturday, December 29, 2018

Preaching


Weekly Sermon

Pastors put a great deal of energy into preaching a weekly sermon to their congregation. In the modern world, this is misdirected energy.

  1. The weekly sermon implies that the pastor hears God better than his people. This contrasts with 1 Corinthians 14:26, where everyone has a word or revelation.

  2. The weekly sermon encourages Christians to be passive and not to seek God's word for themselves. Perhaps this why Christians are so easily
    manipulated by false prophets. They are trained to be passive.

  3. Many years ago, the pastor or priest was often the only person in a church who could read. He had to teach the people what the Bible says. This need no longer exists.

  4. There is an abundance of excellent teaching on television, radio, audio tape and the internet.

  5. If the Church needs a word of direction or challenge, it should come from one of the prophets and not the pastor.

  6. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on the Church, so there is no need for an intermediary between God and his people. The Holy Spirit has
    promised to teach us all things (1 John 2:27, John 16:13-15).

Parable

An army is not trained by getting together all the soldiers, from brigadier to private, for an hour and half a week and spending the first 30 minutes singing battle songs and the next hour listening to a general lecturing on tactics and the history of war.

Soldiers need to learn discipline, obedience and weapons skills. These skills are learned by doing. The generals concentrate on tactics and planning. Most private soldiers are trained by NCOs. Troops need to be battle-hardened before they are fully trained.

Preaching in the World
Preaching belongs in the world. In the New Testament, preaching was used for evangelism. The good preachers in the church should be taken out of their pulpits and sent into the marketplaces to proclaim the good news to the world.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Quality Gifts

On Christmas day, my three-year-old granddaughter received as a present a small electronic fishing game, which had been designed and manufactured in the United States. There was only one problem. Before the game could be played, a C battery was needed. There are plenty of AA and AAA around the house, but Cs are not used much these days. So the present could not be used until her parents were able to purchase a battery in a couple of day’s time.

In contrast, all the presents that were manufactured in China were ready to use. They had batteries in them, with just a small piece of plastic to be removed, or the batteries were included in the box ready to install.

The difference seems obvious. Chinese manufacturers understand the needs of their customers. They know that most toys are given as gifts, and that small children want to play with their presents when they receive them. Customers have come to expect that with Chinese-made toys.
American manufacturers seem to think that customers are privileged to be able to buy their products.

If the United States manufacturers want to become “great again”, they will need to get better at customer service.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Whose Shoulder?

Isaiah prophesied boldly about Jesus.

For to us, a child is born,
to us, a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.

Of the increase of his
government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign … over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
The government will be on his shoulder.

Who?

The Child
Jesus.

The simple reading of this text is that Jesus will be the government
from that time forward and forever.

So why does Donald Trump think that he should be the government?
or Teresa May, or Angela Merkel, or Xi Jinping, or Vladimir Putin, or Jacinda Adern?

Why do we put our faith in democracy?
Why do we think that we can vote in a new government,
At the next election?

Herod understood Isaiah's prophecy.
He knew that his government was a goner,
so he tried to kill Jesus,
but he was still a goner.

Mary understood it too. That is why she said,
Kings would be thrown down from their thrones
and the humble raised up.

Satan understood the threat.
That is why he came up with clever deception that
this prophecy is "Not for now, but for later",
"Jesus government comes at the end of the age."
You could trust Satan to thrust his shoulder in.

The government is on Jesus' shoulder.
He will govern with justice and righteousness.
and his government will never stop increasing.
The Zeal of the Lord will do it.

When?

Not in the future.
No!
From that time on and forever.

We had better work out what this means.
Soon!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

All Ready

God knew that the powers of evil would not give up their stolen authority without a fight, so he did not send Jesus until everything he had planned on earth was ready. This is why he waited so long before sending him. He had to wait until the political situation was right and the people he needed were willing to listen to the Holy Spirit and do his will.

The Roman Empire was ruling most of the earth. Roman law established peace in Israel, allowing Jesus to move around freely. Israel was divided into three provinces with the Romans ruling Judea directly through a procurator. The sons of Herod ruled the other two provinces. This allowed Jesus to operate below the Roman radar by doing most of his ministry in Galilee. He could move across the Jordan, whenever he needed a place of safety.

  • Messianic expectation was at a high level. People were longing for the peace and justice of God.

  • The Jewish establishment controlled the temple in Jerusalem. They were ready for confrontation with Jesus.

  • John the Baptist was ready to announce the messiah.

  • Peter was being toughened up ready for when the church would get going in Jerusalem.

  • Paul was being trained up ready to take the gospel to the gentiles and write his letters.

  • John was ready to begin a journey that would end with him writing the book of Revelation. His prophetic work would give God authority to act long into the future.

  • Mary was willing to care for a baby, a huge burden for a young woman.

  • Joseph was willing to obey the voice in his dreams. He was brave enough to flee to Egypt; very scary for a Jewish family.

  • The wise men were ready to come and provide Mary and Joseph with economic security. They did not give Jesus toys for play. They provided his parents with gifts that could be sold in any economy at any time for their survival.

If any of these people had failed to fulfil their calling, God’s plan would have turned to custard.

The devil probably knew that something was up, but sending a messiah as a baby was so strange, he was confused. He would have killed Jesus, if he had the chance. The wise men set the cat among the pigeons by going to Herod to find the king, instead of following the star to Bethlehem. The devil stirred Herod into a killing frenzy in Bethlehem, in a futile attempt to get rid of a threat he did not understand (Matt 2:16).

After thousands of years, the time was right and everything was in place, so God sent his son. The prophets had announced the Messiah and described his ministry in full. Their declarations gave God authority to send his Son as a Messiah, but they were dead. He needed people on the ground to give life to these prophecies.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah (Luke 2:25-26).
Simeon’s prayers and prophecies gave God permission to send his Messiah. Anna’s prayers also gave him authority to send Jesus. She recognised him when he was born.
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher... She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying… she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).
Anna and Simeon knew God intended to send the Messiah in their time. They announced his coming to those “who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem”. Their prophecies and prayers gave God authority to send his son (Kingdom Authority pp.80,81).

More at God's Big Plan.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Preparation

We focus on the night that Jesus was born, but God had been planning and preparing for this moment for hundreds of years.

God had a plan to restore authority on earth, by sending his son and then the Holy Spirit to establish the kingdom. This was a good plan, but God did not have authority to implement it.

Most Christians assume that God is all-powerful and can do whatever he chooses, but if that were true, God could have put the situation right as soon as sin came into the world. He did not do that because he had freely given authority over the earth to humans. That gift was unconditional and God is faithful and true, so he could not go back on his word.

When humans sinned, God did not grab his authority back. That would turn it into Imposed Authority, and he was not interested in that. Although humans had surrendered to evil, God still recognised them as the legitimate authority on earth, so he could not intervene until he was invited by people with authority on earth. Getting that authority took thousands of years.

God was not slow to send Jesus, but sent him as soon as everything was prepared. During the thousands of years that had gone by since humans sinned, he was not sitting around twiddling his thumbs. He was waiting for people with authority on earth to give him permission to act. Because most humans had surrendered their authority to the powers of evil, this permission was quite difficult to get. He needed dozens of prophets to complete the task (Kingdom Authority, p 79).

God ultimate goal was to send Jesus to destroy the powers of evil and restore authority over the earth to humans. However, many things had to be made ready first.

  • The right governments had to be in place on earth to prevent the powers of evil killing Jesus before he had grown up. (If the spiritual powers of evil had killed Jesus while he was a baby, God’s plan would be foiled. He did not have a plan B).

  • The border with Egypt had to be open so that it would be available as a place of safety for Jesus.

  • Control of the land of Israel would need to be divided between different rulers (Herod and Pilate), so Jesus could move from place to place in safety.

  • A relatively peaceful empire must be in power, so the gospel could travel freely around the world.

  • God also had to get some key people ready to obey: Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Anna, Simeon, and the twelve disciples. Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Stephen, Timothy had to be ready to proclaim the gospel.

Before he could send Jesus, God needed permission from humans living on earth. The prophets gave God authority to send Jesus by specifying every detail of his life and ministry in written form. The declarations of human prophets gave God authority in advance to do what he wanted to do through Jesus.

Isaiah prophesied the suffering servant. Jeremiah promises the coming of the Kingdom of God. Ezekiel prophesied the season when Israel would come to faith in Jesus. Micah announced that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. This prophetic ministry reached a climax with John the Baptist. Jesus explained the prophecies about him to his disciples.

Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44).
These things were written to give God authority to act on earth.

Getting the prophets to understand his plans and write them down was a difficult task. When reading the prophetic books, we assume that the Holy Spirit controlled the prophets and could make them write exactly what he wanted. That is not true. They were sinful people just like us. The Holy Spirit had to get them into a place without distractions and spiritual disturbances, so they could hear and record his words. They often got it wrong and their writings had to be discarded.

The Holy Spirit used many prophets over hundreds of years to complete this work. The enormity of the task delayed the coming of Jesus, but God could not risk sending Jesus before he had authority to do everything he needed to do to protect him from the powers of evil (Kingdom Authority p.77).

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Predictions

This is the time of year when the internet prophets share their predictions for the next year. I have never seen the point, because marking off years is a human way of viewing history. God thinks in terms of seasons.

This year I am going to make a prediction.

I am not expecting the Holy Spirit to change his mind and do things that he has been unwilling to do up till now.

I am not looking for a political leader to rescue the church.

My prediction is simple.

More of the same will produce more of the same.

If the church carries on operating in the same way that it has for the last thirty years, it will experience more of the same. People will sing lively worship songs; listen to challenging sermons; a few people will be healed; and some people will decide to follow Jesus; but the tide of secularism, humanism and paganism that is sweeping Western culture will not be turned back.

But I do have hope. I know that God wants to do something spectacular in Christchurch, the city where I live. I know that he has a strategy to establish his kingdom here in a special way as a demonstration to the world. See God’s Strategy for Christchurch.

But God can only accomplish his purposes for this city, if the church will change the way that it operates; and do things his way. I know that God has plans to establish his kingdom here, and I know that the Holy Spirit is willing and able to do it, but I am not confident it will happen, because the church is unwilling to do things differently.

The entire church does not need to change. He just needs a remnant. A couple of hundred people who are sold out for Jesus, and willing to follow the Holy Spirit wherever he leads, could get things started.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37 records a vision of the valley full of dry bones. After Ezekiel prophesied,
they were joined and raised to become a mighty army. However, there is an important sequence which is often missed.

When Ezekiel prophesied, the bones came together bone to bone, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. First, they had to come together in relationships, (bone to bone = pairs). The tendons and muscles joined the bones together. This is the work of the elders: to build a church with a network of relationships.

Then Ezekiel prophesied again. The breath (spirit) came into them and they stood up and became a mighty army. The Holy Spirit came in the fullness of power.

We often think the solution is for the Holy Spirit to come in power and revive the body of Christ. That is getting the order wrong. Before the Spirit can come in power, the bones must be joined together bone to bone, by tendons and muscles. In other words, the structure of the church must be corrected first. The correct leadership pattern must be established and the members must be joined together in a network of relationships. Only then can the Holy Spirit come in power.

Jesus was making the same point when he said, "you can't put new wine into old wineskins". The individual bones can only become a might army empowered by the Spirit, if they are joined together, bone to bone.

Notice also that both stages of the process were marked by the prophetic voice. The body will not be joined together, the Spirit will not be released in power, the church will not become a mighty army until the prophetic ministry is established in the church.

The real problem is that the church is dislocated and disjointed. The body will have to be joined together again before the life of God can flow through it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Church and Kingdom

To understand the difference between the church and the kingdom of God, we must grasp the importance of territory in God’s purposes.

When the followers of Jesus living together in one place engage in spiritual warfare, they can force all the spiritual powers of evil out of that territory. Once they achieve victory, this territory belongs to Jesus, not to the spiritual powers of evil.

Within this territory, there will be two types of people.

  • Citizens of the Kingdom who given their allegiance to Jesus.
  • Residents living within the territory, but who have not given allegiance to Jesus. Most of them just keep their heads down and try to remain invisible. A few will be outlaws, looking for a chance to rebel against the King, but they will be outnumbered.
Jesus is the king of everyone living and working within that territory.

An ekklesia is a gathering of the citizens living in a place (Act 19:39). In terms of the Kingdom of God, the ekklesia is all the citizens of the Kingdom (those who have given allegiance to Jesus) living in that piece of territory. Not everyone living within that territory is a citizen.

Citizens are a body of followers of Jesus, who are:

  • rescued by Jesus
  • in allegiance with him
  • living close to each other, and
  • walking in the Spirit
The citizens (ekklesia) in this piece of territory engage in the following activities.
  • proclaiming the good news
  • loving one another
  • serving each other through giving and sharing
  • celebrating the Lord’s Supper
  • prayer
  • eldership
  • discipling new believers
  • prayer
  • spiritual defence of the territory against all spiritual attacks.
Citizens can operate in the spiritual realms. They can go into the king’s presence because the King is their brother and friend.

Residents live within the territory of the king, but they are not citizens, because they have not yet given allegiance to the king. They only know the king by hearsay. They cannot go into his presence, because they are confined to the physical realms of life.

Residents are not interested in the activities of the ekklesia listed above. However, because they belong to the Kingdom, they are entitled to the following benefits.

  • justice
  • security and protection
  • economic support
The King cares about all residents of his kingdom. He wants them to prosper, so they do not rebel against him.

Kingdom Communities serve citizens and residents, although most of the work will be done by citizens because they are committed to the king and his kingdom. Residents will also be glad to receive:

  • education
  • employment
  • sanitation
  • healthcare.
Kingdom Communities make human government redundant. Political power takes plenty, but has nothing to offer, because what the Kingdom Community delivers everything better.

For more see Government of God.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Substitution

Jesus dies on our behalf, so how is it that his death counts for our sins.

If a someone is convicted of a crime, then a family member can pay the fine on their behalf.

But if the sentence is the death penalty, it is not so easy. If a young man has been convicted of a serious crime and sentenced to death, the father cannot say,

My younger son died in a car accident, so let his death count for my older son who is sentenced to death.
A court would not accept that. If the father offered to die for his son (because he was old and did not want to live), the court would probably not accept that either. The court would probably demand that the son who had committed the crime pay his own penalty.

The answer is that when we trust Jesus and surrender to him, we become one with him. Through faith, we became part of Jesus.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).
When we heard the message of truth and believed the gospel, we became “in Jesus”. God made us “those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). From that point on, everything that happened to Jesus also happened to us. When he died, we died with him.
Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death (Rom 6:3-4).
Strictly speaking, Jesus did not die as a substitute in our place. Rather, through faith we are joined with him, so when he died, we actually died with him.

Jesus died for everyone. Potentially, his death has the potential to count for everyone who has ever lived on earth. Legally that does not work. A judge will not just accept the death of one person in place of another. To receive the benefit of Jesus death, we have to trust him and surrender to him so God can put us in him. In Jesus, his death becomes our death, which satisfies the powers of evil who demanded that we die for our sins.

Jesus death has the potential to cover everyone. Legally, that potential can only become a reality for those who are united with Jesus through faith.

Because Jesus died, we do not need to die, so in that sense, he died in our place. However, from the legal perspective, we are in him, so we died with him. And because we died with him, we share in his life too.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection. (Rom 6:8).
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him (Rom 6:8).

That means that his death counts for us

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Authority and Intercession

Evil spirits generally have to respond to authority. They played the authority game to steal authority on earth from humans to get their power on earth. So if they deny the validity of authority, they are undermining their position. Of course, a few are cheats, but generally they acknowledge authority. If they refuse, the Holy Spirit will force them out. (I explain the working of authority in Kingdom Authority).

The power of our intercession depends on how much authority we have in the situation. If a person has given evil spirits permission to be active in their lives, then our prayers might not be effective, because the person has greater authority over their life that we do. If they are tired of the evil and want rid of it, then our prayer will be effective, because their will, our will and God’s will are aligned, so the evil spirit has to go.

There are various ways we can get authority in another person’s life. Parents have authority over children. When we submit to elders, we give them authority in our lives. When someone asks us for help, that gives us authority in their life. When we submit to each other, we give the others authority to resist evil on our behalf. That is why submission is important in the NT.

One way to increase our authority is to bless the other person in some way. They then owe us something, which gives us authority, (the borrower is the servant of the lender). Of course, our motive must be love, and we must not expect anything in return.

Another way to increase authority is to submit to a trusted friend (or two). This gives them the same authority in the situation that we have. If we all agree with God's will the power of our intercession will be amplified.

We should concentrate our intercession of people where we have some authority because they will be more effective. I only have very little authority over a President or Prime Minister, because my only authority is my vote which is miniscule authority. So, it takes a large number of people with a small bit of authority to be effective in intercession for them. On the other hand, I have considerable authority in the life of a friend who asks me for help.

If I want someone to pray effectively for me, I need to submit to them and give them authority in my life. Then when we agree with them and with God, evil cannot resist.

When evil spirits leave, they do not clean up their mess before they go. The remaining mess does not mean that they have not gone. We often need to ask the Holy Spirit to come and restore the damage that they have left behind.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Gospel to the Streets and Marketplaces

A preacher told is listeners to take the gospel into the streets and marketplaces. He said that God would do greater miracles there than in the church. This is probably true, but the people do not know how to do it.

That is not how Jesus operated. He showed his disciples what to do. He took the twelve with him as he healed the sick, cast out demons and preached the good news. I presume that he sometimes got them to do the easy ones. When he sent them out, they know what to do, because they had helped Jesus do it.

The best way to learn a new and difficult task is the followings:

  • Watch an expert do the task.
  • Help the expert to do it.
  • Do the task with the expert watching and checking.
  • Do it on your own.
Telling people to do a tough new task without teaching them how to do it is unreasonable.

Here is a suggestion. Most pastors know how to pray for sick and how to cast out demons. They share the gospel at the end of their message most weeks. A couple of pastors should get together and go out into the streets and learn how to share the gospel there, while healing the sick and casting out demons.

When they have learned to do it, they should each take a person from their church into the streets and marketplaces and teach them how to do it. Once these two people have learned how to do it, they could each take another person and teach them what they have learned. This process would multiply the evangelist ministry to operate in the streets and marketplaces with signs and wonders following.

The best way to get people to do something that they don’t know how to do is to do it with them. Telling people to do something that you do not know how to do is dishonest.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Taking the Gospel into the Workplace

A well-known pastor I saw on television told his congregation of about 500 people that they are the ministers who will bring in the harvest by taking the gospel into their workplaces. This is a common teaching, but there is a problem.

These people are being given a burden, but they do not know how to do it.

Being a witness in a workplace is very hard. Most pastors have not worked in the workplace for many years, so they have forgotten how hard it is.

  • I served in a secular organisation for thirty years, but was never able to share the gospel with anyone. I was known for being a Christian, but no one ever came and asked me about Jesus. I don’t know anyone who did manage to share the gospel effectively with their fellow workers. Those who tried hard, often made fools of themselves, because the quality of their work did not match with their words.

  • If you manage other people at your workplace, you have to be careful you are not seen as imposing your beliefs on them. They have to listen to you, but you must not take advantage of that.

  • A pastor works in a place that has been soaked in prayer. A workplace is shaped by the spiritual powers that the owners and managers have released into it, so it is a tough place for Christians to operate. While at work, they have to submit to their owners and managers, so they are vulnerable to the spirits that have authority in their lives.

  • People go into their workplaces alone. Jesus knew that sharing the gospel is tough, so he always sent his followers out in pairs. That helped them to be effective. Only a few people go into their workplace with a fellow Christian.

  • While at work, management expects people to fit with the workplace culture. This makes it hard to share the gospel, because management does not want unnecessary tensions disrupting their business.

Jesus instructed his followers into homes, streets and places, because they were spaces where the spiritual authority was less concentrated and more contested.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Ascension Gifts

We must shift the ascension gifts down from being performance ministries in a church meeting to become relationship gifts serving a body of believers.

The only ascension gift that has a performance aspect is the evangelist, but it should not be in a church meeting, but out in the world, healing the sick, casting out demons, and proclaiming the good news of Jesus.

Instead of being a travelling ministry attending church meetings, giving a word to the few lucky people, a misleading word to one or two unfortunate ones, and moving on before the results are clear, a model that is impossible for aspiring prophets to emulate, the ministry of the prophet must restored to a body of people connected by love, where they must be accountable for their words and behaviour.

Pastors should be healing and restoring broken people, not at the front of meeting, but within a body that is being bound together and built up in love to the fullness of Jesus.

Jesus command to love one another as he loves us requires life relationships, not Sunday meet and greet relationships.

More at Being Church Where We Live.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New Seasons (6) Questions

When I hear prophetic people say that we are moving into a new season or that some new blessings are being released, I want to know the answer to four questions.

  • What epochal event is occurring that will bring the Kingdom of God to fulfilment? Usually, they are not pointing to a true change of season. They are just expressing a hope that the church will be revived and the gospel will be proclaimed with power. That is a noble hope, but it is misleading to call it a change in season.

  • Who was holding back the promised blessings: God or the powers of evil? We need to know who we are dealing with. The problem is never with God.

  • Why were the promised blessing held back?

    • Have the humans given the power of evil authority to hold it back?

    • Are the people of God willing to do his will?

  • What has changed to make the new season possible?

    • Has God changed his mind – doesn’t happen?

    • Have the powers of evil given up – not likely?

    • Have the spiritual powers of evil lost their ability to hold back God’s purposes – this can only happen if humans withdraw authority they had given them?

    • Have humans changed their attitudes or behaviour allowing God to do what he wanted to do – that is always the key to the new move of the Spirit.

Christians looking for a new season should understand that God does not change his mind. He does not change his plan or the way that he does things. He does not stop and start. He is never the reason that the kingdom of God is slow to come on earth. Humans are the reason, we need a better season.

Our failure to listen to the voice of the Spirit and do his will is the reason we are not receiving the promised blessings. If we are doing the wrong thing, God will not change his mind and bless it. Rather, we should be asking him what we need to do differently to receive his blessings.

In any season, they key is alignment with the will of God. If we align with his will, we experience his goodness. His goodness is not just blessings. His goodness might mean blessing with persecutions. If we do not align with God’s will, then things will go badly in every way (although he will work it for our good in the long run).

We do not need prophets giving vague promises about season changes that are disconnected from our circumstances and alignment to God’s will. What we do need is prophetic insights into God will’s in our current situation, so that we can obey him fully and receive his blessings. We need fewer prophecies telling us that God is changing, and more telling us how to change so that we can do with his will.

This full series is at New Seasons.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

New Season (5) Greater Cooperation

God will not force people to do things against their will. The Holy Spirit nudges and guides, but he will not force people to obey him. This means that God can only achieve something different on earth if his people cooperate with him more than they did in the past. If something different happens on earth, it will be because people have allowed him to do what he always wanted to do.

If a new level of activity begins in a place, it will be because people in that place have started cooperating with the Holy Spirit in a way that they were not before. It is not because God has changed his mind, and is doing something he was not doing before.

If something new is happening, it is not because God has woken up, or changed his mind. Something new can only happen if Christians have a change of heart and agree to do what God needs them to do, or because humans have removed a place of authority that the spiritual powers of evil used to obstruct God work.

There can be a new season of cooperation if the people of God have a change of heart, but we must be careful how we describe it. A season of cooperation is not something that God can make happen, regardless of the response of his people.

We can have a new season, but we establish it, when we change our hearts and cooperate with God and do his will.

Monday, November 26, 2018

New Season (4) God is Never the Problem

The problem is never with God. Lack of action on earth is never God’s fault. Lack of progress with the gospel is never the Holy Spirit’s a failure. God always wants to do something better on earth. He is always looking for people to work with his Spirit to accomplish his purposes. If Holy Spirit has not been able to bring in the Kingdom of God, it is not because he couldn’t be bothered, but because his people have been unwilling to work with him in his way to achieve his purposes.

We should be careful about saying that a new season has started, because it suggests that God is going to start doing something that he was not doing before. It implies that God is the reason why nothing was happening. This makes him the problem, which is not fair to God. It also removes responsibility from us, which is dishonest. Blaming God for our problems is a serious sin. Not only does it grieve God, but it gives the spiritual powers of evil access into our situation.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

New Season (3) God has a Plan

God sent Jesus to win back the world for him. Jesus did everything that God needed him to do. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he poured out the Holy Spirit on those who believed in him. The Holy Spirit has been at work since the day of Pentecost. He has not stopped working. The plan for restoring the world by the Holy Spirit working in the church has not changed.

However, the activity of the Holy Spirit depends on the degree of cooperation that he receives from his people. God gave humans authority on earth, so the Holy Spirit needs our permission to operate on earth. He has no arms and legs, so he needs people to carry him where he needs to go. He has no mouth, so he needs people to speak through.

God has poured the Holy Spirit out on everyone who trusts in Jesus. Everything that God can do is available through his Spirit. We can grieve him, but God does not withdraw him from the world. He is always seeking to work where hearts are open to his grace.

When you have done something as wonderful as giving the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is hard to do a new thing that is better. So, the idea that God is about to do a new thing does not make sense. He cannot do more than he has already done by sending his Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of those who have chosen to follow Jesus.

If the Holy Spirit begins to move in a place, it is not he has changed his mind, but because he has found people willing to do what he needs them to do. If the Holy Spirit stops moving in a place, it is because people have stopped cooperating with him. The problem is never with God or his plan. The problem is always with us.

If we understand God's times and seasons, we will not see fickle and arbitrary changes in the way that God works on earth. The Holy Spirit came in the fullness of his power on the day of Pentecost, so God cannot send more of him. The powers of evil were fully defeated by the cross, so God cannot defeat them further.

When the Holy Spirit seems to be moving in a new way, it is most likely because he is able to do what he has always wanted to do because a group of people have opened their hearts to his purpose and allowed him to do it. Or possibly, the spiritual powers of evil have lost some authority, which prevents them from obstructing God’s purposes.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

New Season (2) Covenant Seasons

A true change in season can occur, but only if there is a change in the covenant relationship between God and his people, or change in the authority situation between God and the power of evil. For example, the giving of the law to Moses began a new season, because God’s people on earth had something they did not have before. It gave them the capability to live in peace with each other and with God. It also gave the spiritual powers of evil the right to accuse them of their failure to keep the law.

The true seasons in human history are marked by epochal events that change the relationship between earth and heaven. The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus was the ultimate epochal event that brought in a new season, because it totally changed the relationship between God and humans. His death on the cross dealt with the sin, which destroyed the authority of the powers of evil. Forgiveness of sin opened the way for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on all who believe.

The last big season change occurred in AD 70 when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, bringing the old covenant sacrifices to an end. This opened a season called the Times of the Gentiles because the Jewish people chose to remain under the old covenant and lost their spiritual protection because they have no sacrifice for sin.

The next epochal event is the Fullness of the Jews when the majority of Jews come to faith in Jesus. This event will bring in a season of great blessing for the world. (These seasons are described in detail in a book called Times and Seasons).

In between these big season changes, there is spiritual warfare. What happens on earth depends on the state of the ongoing war. Success or failure depends almost entirely on the church. Changes in the spiritual realms come from binding and releasing on earth, not the other way around (Matt 16:19).

Because the Jews have not yet received Jesus as their Messiah, we are still in the season called the Times of the Gentiles. Until the epochal event that ends this season occurs and the Fullness the Jews comes in, we must be careful about calling a new season. If an epochal event has not caused a change in the spiritual realms that brings about change on earth, there is unlikely to be a new season.

Friday, November 23, 2018

New Season (1)

Reading prophetic websites, I see many prophetic people saying that we are entering a new season. I am not sure what that means. It suggests that God is going to do something new that he was not doing before. It implies that the Holy Spirit is working in one place and not in another. It makes it seems like God stops and starts, or moves in one place and not in another.

God is not Fickle
God is not fickle or capricious. He is not lazy. God does not speak like this.

  • I am not going to do much in India for the next fifty years, because they have had a good run.
  • I am going to move in Russia now because I have not done much there for the last 200 years.
  • I am not going to do much in the United States, because I can’t be bothered.
  • I am going to do more in New Zealand because I have not been doing much until now.
God has released his Holy Spirit into the world. He is always at work. He does not turn the flow on and off according to his whim. God does not engage in trial and error. He does not try things to see if they will work.

God does not come and go. He does not arbitrarily jump from offering his blessing to withdrawing it. Blessings that were not available last week do not suddenly become available this week, because the year has a different number. God is not in a stingy mood one day and in a generous mood the next. He is not miserable last year and happy next year. The angels are not tired one week and strong the next.

God operates consistently according to the principles that he has revealed in the scriptures. He has been working on a long-term strategy that began when Adam and Eve sinned. His strategy is consistent with the way he has decided to operate on earth. His way of dealing with the earth does not change. His judgements are fair and consistent.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Territory (8) Stumbling Block

Dependence on professional pastor-leaderships operating through big church-meetings is a serious obstacle to the Kingdom of God.

  • I cannot see professional pastors willingly stepping down from their role. They have invested so much time and energy into their church that they believe it cannot survive without them. They believe that they are essential for the advance of the church within their city.

  • I cannot see the church willingly giving up their big Sunday meetings because they have invested too much in their church buildings. Their ability to recover the wealth invested in these buildings is limited because these buildings have few other uses. Consequently, the market for unneeded church buildings is very small.

Unfortunately, this prevents them from taking spiritual control of territory for Jesus. It leaves him as a king without territory.

New Wineskin
Some prophetic people have announced that God is giving a new wineskin to his people. The coming of new wineskin must significantly change two things.

  • The role and structure of the leaders.
  • The way that members of the body relate to each other.
They will need to form together in a way that will enable the Holy Spirit to expand the territory where Jesus is King.

I don’t know what people think when they hear a word that God wants to bring in a new wineskin. I presume they think that their church might change a little, but most other churches will have to change more to be like theirs.

I presume that most pastors assume that they will lead the transition into the new wineskin, but if they established and shaped the old wineskin, it hard to see how that could happen.

I presume that most people in ministry assume that their role will be the same or enhanced in the new wineskin. But that cannot be true, because then the wineskin would not be new.

God will give them an opportunity to get with his program, but most will not be able to change. As usual, he will have to rely on a remnant to fulfil his strategy. He needs numerous groups of three or four people/families coming together in strategic places across the edge of the city. From there, he can spread out, working with people who come to faith, but do not have an attachment to the priest/temple paradigm. Together, they can be led by the Spirit into a new wineskin.

God can use people who are discouraged and disaffected, provided they are filled with his Spirit. But they must not stand around grumbling and moaning, but should get together with others who balance their giftings and learn to love one another. They should seek out the place where the Holy Spirit wants them to begin.

David began building his army when people who were in distress, or in debt or disaffected gathered with him in the Cave of Adullam (1 Sam 22:1-2). They were not noticed, because they seemed trivial, but they multiplied into a mighty army that took the land for David. The same applies in the modern world. Those who are distressed and disaffected should gather in places where they will not be noticed. That is how God builds a remnant.

The full set of posts can be found at Territory.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Territory (7) Fivefold Ministry

Under the Modern Church Model, dependence on professional pastors squeezes out the other ascension gifts. A pastor-leader is the chief executive of a large church, so the other gifts have to operate under him, or move outside the church. Prophets and Evangelists struggle to find a place in the church, because the pastor-leader is uneasy about giving them too much freedom. They are expected to be subordinate to their pastor and submit to his control, which constrains their ministry, whereas in Ephesians 4, they seem to be equal. The pastor’s wife often becomes the prophet to the church, because she is trusted by the pastor-leader.

Many prophets and evangelists are forced into travelling ministries, which is dangerous because they lose accountability to a body of believers. They move on before the consequences of their ministry become clear. Their ministry gets centred on meetings, when their role is to build up the body of Jesus. Of course, they continue to dependent on pastors for opportunities to speak at church meetings, so they have to be careful not to rock the boat too much.

An apostle is a leader who pushes out with some other followers of Jesus to expand the territory of the king by establishing spiritual stronghold beyond the existing one. In the Modern Church Model, this role does not exist, so “super pastors” or “regional leaders” are often given the title “apostle”.

God wants to push the fivefold gifts back down into the body of Christ, so it may grow up fully into Jesus. A team of leaders with balanced giftings who have submitted to each can join and knit together the body is in unity with every part doing its share. One elder will be a prophet, another will be an evangelist and several will be pastors. Working together in unity, they can help the body to grow by edifying of itself in love.

Multiplication of Leaders

As God brings in his kingdom by taking territory for Jesus, he will need a huge number of new leaders. Unfortunately, the Modern Church Model has been ineffective at developing new leaders. Most attendees are trained to sit passively and watch the pastor-leader ministering. Many will find a role in assisting with running a church meeting, but few will discover a five-fold calling. A few will get to preach, but it will be rare for a person to get to be a pastor-leader. This approach cannot produce the leaders that are needed to support a rapid advance of the gospel and bring in the Kingdom.

If each of the leaders of a body of believers has strong relationships with a dozen followers of Jesus will grow to maturity quickly. The prophet will release vision and ensure that issues are sorted out keep. The leaders with a shepherd’s heart will solve problems and encourage people into their callings. The leaders will replicate their ministries in those that they are discipling. The evangelist will teach them how to share the gospel and heal the sick.

When their existing stronghold is secure, the leaders will send some of their number out as apostles to push out to establish another spiritual stronghold for Jesus. Potential leaders will have discovered their calling and be ready to step and replace those who are sent out. This multiplication of ministries is essential for the advance of the Kingdom of God by taking territory for Jesus.

Spiritually Vulnerable

The Modern Church Model is vulnerable to spiritual attack. Once the leaders of churches lived in a house on the same site as their church building. That had problems, but it was a spiritually safe place to be, because the spiritual powers of evil had no authority on the land belonging to the church.

These days, pastors-leaders prefer to live separate from their church and their people, so they can have a private life. Because they live in isolation in the world like other Christians, the spiritual powers of evil can concentrate their attacks on the pastor-leader overwhelm him by diverse attacks. If they can divert him or disrupt his family, they constrain his entire church
The pastor leader of a large organisation/church will be frequently tempted to slip into manipulation and control to keep their church on track. This gives the spiritual powers of evil a point of entry to attack the church.

The spiritual powers of evil can use persecution to shut down the Modern Church Model. The most effective way is to arrest the pastor-leader and lock the church doors. This would cripple most modern churches. However, they do not have to go that far. Political powers can control the preaching of the pastor-leader by placing particular topics off limits. History shows that most pastors will comply with the requirements of the political authorities to retain their status and authority.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Territory (6) Priest/Temple Paradigm

The modern church model is priest/temple paradigm. The professional pastor-leader acts as a mediator between the Holy Spirit and the people.

  • Christians must attend the temple every week to be sure of their salvation.

  • If a Christian wants more of the Holy Spirit, they should go to the temple and the priest/pastor will pray for them.

  • If a Christian has a problem, they should come to the temple and get the priest/pastor to pray for them.

  • If Christian needs advice about life, they should go to the temple and listen to priest/pastor preaching a message.

  • If a Christian needs healing, they should go to the temple and the priest/pastor will pray for them at the front of the church. Others might pray too, but the prayers of the priest/pastor are expected to be more effective.

  • If they have a friend who wants to become a Christian, they should bring them to the temple and the priest/pastor will lead them in a prayer to Jesus.

Under the Priest/Temple Paradigm, everything important happens at the front of the church meeting. People who need ministry are prayed for by the leaders while the rest of the people watch. People needing salvation or ministry must be brought to the church by their friends so they can receive the ministry of the pastor-leader. The reality is that the Holy Spirit cannot do everything that he wants to do at the front of the church. He loves to go out into the places where people live, but he needs a body of believers to carry him.

What God wants to do is so big that it cannot be done by one person in a church building. The Holy Spirit wants to be doing things in public places where the world can see. Something is wrong when people who have been Christians for twenty years are still sitting in the temple listening to a priest pastor telling them how to do what the Holy Spirit wants to do.

The Priest/Temple Paradigm operates in the wrong direction. Jesus said to “Go” whereas the modern church says “Come”. Jesus commanded his followers to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt 28:19; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) once they had received the power of the Spirit. When Jesus had 70 disciples that he trusted, he did not form a big church meeting. Instead, he sent his first disciples out into the towns and villages where the crowds that followed him lived (Luke 10:1-2). The Holy Spirit did great things because he loves to go out where people live.

  • The Priest/Temple Paradigm calls people into a big meeting, but this an Old Testament strategy. The Israelites had to go up to Jerusalem three times a year to meet with God because they had not received the Holy Spirit. The modern church has changed the frequency to weekly, but has not changed the direction, despite the Holy Spirit being poured out. The new covenant brought a change of direction. The Holy Spirit wants to go out, because that is what Jesus told him to do. The church calls people together each week, when it should be sending people out in the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • The Priest/Temple Paradigm draws resources to the centre. Most finance raised goes to paying for the church building and supporting the professional pastor-leader and his team. In the new covenant, money flows the other way. Resources go out to bless the poor and to pay restitution to people have not received justice. This is a key feature of the Kingdom of God.

  • The Priest/Temple Paradigm scatters people into the world alone. They get overwhelmed by the worldly culture where they live and work, because they spend most of their time in it. A church that gathers scattered people together in a big meeting cannot transform the culture of a city. When they go back out as individuals, they are overwhelmed by the culture of the world.

  • The Holy Spirit wants to go out in groups of two or three families. One person cannot be a powerful witness for Jesus. A family living in the world is not the best witness for Jesus, because they look just like other families, just a bit nicer. Jesus is so wonderful that he cannot be represented by one person or family. He is best represented by a body of believers living close together in a place where the world can see. The best witness for Jesus is a group of families who share with each other and support each other, because they love Jesus.

Because the priest-temple model cannot take spiritual control of territory, it cannot bring in the Kingdom of God, no matter how much pastor/preachers talk about it. Accordingly, they use the word “kingdom” as an adjective to describe what they are doing, rather than as a noun to describe an entity that God is establishing.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Territory (5) Two obstacles

Some prophetic leaders are calling for a new vision and new strategy for the church to receive the Kingdom, but it seems to be stuck on two obstacles that it will not give up. Two aspects of church structure seem to be untouchable, but they limit the ability of the Holy Spirit to move.

  • Leadership by a single professional leader
    This person is usually called the Senior Pastor, but they sometimes take the title Apostle. They are often supported by various professional assistants, including worship leader, youth leader, assistant pastor, etc. If the church has elders, they are subservient to this Senior Pastor.

  • Sunday Meeting in a Church Building
    Everyone in the church is focused on getting as many people together as possible. The focus of the meeting is worship, often led by worship leader and worship team while everyone else responds passively. A sermon by the Pastor Leader is the second important element of the meeting. He tells the people what the Holy Spirit is saying Much of the ministry of the church happens at the front of the meeting. Most of the members of the church are trained to sit passively and watch the pastor and his team perform. There might be various small groups, but they are temporary, and subservient to the Sunday meeting. The meeting is called “church” because people consider it to be the church.

These two obstacles hang together. A pastor-leader cannot relate to a thousand or more people, so the only way that he can connect with all his flock is to bring them together in a large meeting. Maintaining a professional leader and his team is expensive, so gathering a big group of people is the only way to fund this structure.

If we do not willingly give up these obstacles, we will not get the new wineskin the Holy Spirit is calling for. Without that new wineskin, we will not be able to take spiritual control of territory and receive the Kingdom of God that wants to bring to us.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Territory (4) None

No matter how strong and army, it can rarely seize control of a big area of territory in one attack, because it will become over-extended. A better approach is to attack a small pocket of territory, clear out all the opposition and establish strong defences, before pushing out from that stronghold to take more territory, and repeat the process of establishing control over it.

The Modern Church Model cannot take spiritual control of territory, because church members live in homes scattered across a wide area in the enemy’s territory. Even the pastor-leader is isolated in the suburbs of their city and vulnerable to spiritual attack. Christians who live in isolation from other members of their church will struggle to spiritually defend their homes, because they are standing alone and the spiritual powers of evil can concentrate to attack them. They are incapable of seizing spiritual control of territory beyond their home, because they have insufficient spiritual resources.

People driving to a church meeting once a week cannot establish territory there Jesus has authority. The best that they can achieve is gaining spiritual control over a church building. The spiritual powers of evil do not care about that, because they can dominate the surrounding territory. Jesus has authority in the church building where the church gathers, but once the meeting is over the Christians are scattered throughout enemy territory. A gathered church has no ability to seize spiritual control of territory around their church building.

Because the Modern Church Model cannot receive the Kingdom, some pastor-leaders are tempted to collaborate with political leaders in an effort to use political power to establish God’s will. Their strategy will not work, because it strengthens the human kingdom that the enemy uses to fight against God’s Kingdom. Political power relies on Imposed Authority. God will not use Imposed Authority it to establish his Kingdom, because he will not force people to do his will. Instead, he wants people to freely submit to Jesus and obey his Spirit because they love him.

The Modern Church Model has been prevalent for at least the last thirty years, but it has failed to advance God’s kingdom, because it has no ability to take spiritual control of territory. With no territory under his authority, Jesus He is left as a king without territory. Unfortunately, most leaders of these churches are focussed on numbers of people, so they do not even see territory as important. The Modern Church Model cannot take spiritual control of territory, so it cannot receive the Kingdom of God, despite all the talk about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Territory (3) Expanding

When some more people in the neighbourhood have chosen to follow Jesus, and once they have cleared out all evil spirits, and established strong spiritual protection over the territory, they can send two or three of their number out to a new piece of territory close by and repeat the process to establish another spiritual stronghold.

If three or four families who are united by their love of Jesus and empowered by the Spirit move to a place, they can establish another Kingdom Community. By living in a cluster of dwellings, they can drive out the spiritual powers of evil that control that vicinity. They can stand together against the attacks of the enemy and establish another place where Jesus has authority. If one family had moved there on their own, they might struggle, because the powers of evil could concentrate to pick them off.

When a group of people who are united in love and empowered by the spirit live in the same place, they can expand the territory that belongs to Jesus. A few different groups of believers living close together in the same general area, united by love and submitted to Jesus can resist the spiritual powers of evil and force them to flee some territory.

The spiritual powers of evil always take the easy option, so they withdraw from areas where the Holy Spirit is strong (James 4:7). When follows of Jesus have established territory that belongs to Jesus, the gospel advance gets easier, because the opposition gets weaker. As more and more people choose to follow Jesus the territory that belongs to him gets larger. The evil-spirit-free zone gets bigger too.




Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Territory (2) Spiritual Strongholds

Territory is critical to the Kingdom of God. He has given humans authority on earth, so he needs places where people have given him permission to work. To defeat the spiritual powers of evil, he needs places where his people have given the Holy Spirit full freedom to operate. A single house or a church building does not give him much scope. The Holy Spirit will be more effective, if his followers establish a stronghold in a group of dwellings close to each other (the shaded dwellings).

Establishing a beachhead in a strategic locality and then expanding outward is the most effective way to expand the territory of a king. An army takes a city street by street and neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

The advance of the kingdom of God needs followers of Jesus to establish spiritual strongholds where his authority is accepted. The best way to take territory for Jesus is a group of his followers choosing to live close together in one place. If they are committed to the leading of the Holy Spirit, he will sort out the housing issues, but they will need to stop seeking capital gains and start seeking kingdom gains.

Two or three families living close to each other in an area will have spiritual control over their homes. By standing together in unity, they have authority to force the spiritual powers of evil to leave the vicinity of their homes. They can establish a small territory that is evil-spirit free.

They must not try to try to get control over the people living in this territory. Rather they should love them and serve them while driving all evil spirits out the area. Jesus has promised that where two or three of his followers come together in one place, he is there in the midst of them.

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matt 18:18-20).
The word “gather” is “sunago”. It requires more than coming together for a prayer meeting. Living in love and unity in the same place expands their spiritual authority, because Jesus promises to be there with them.

Those who live near each other and love one another will have greater spiritual authority, because Jesus has promised that they will be able to defeat the spiritual powers of evil in the surrounding territory. They will be able to pray for the sick and cast out demons because they are united in Jesus. They can establish an evil-spirit-free zone where the Holy Spirit is free to work (the shaded area).

Monday, November 12, 2018

Territory (1)

Territory is critical for the Kingdom of God. The main reason that the Modern Church Model cannot receive the kingdom, it that it has no capacity to take spiritual control of territory.

Kings needs territory. A king without territory is not a real king. If another ruler gains control of his territory, he is just a pretender.

The spiritual powers of evil understand the importance of territory. The powerful ones have become “principalities and powers” controlling nations and kingdoms by dominating the kings and political leaders with authority over them. Lesser spirits control smaller areas where they have been given authority.

In the last couple of centuries, the church has lost interest in territory. Jesus now has many followers in the world, but very little territory where he has authority. There are very few places where he is king. Instead, his followers are scattered throughout territory that is controlled by the enemy. Because they live and work in enemy territory, they are often battered, beaten and robbed.

If there are no areas on earth that are evil-spirit free, then Jesus does not have a kingdom on earth. He just has people who have given allegiance to him living as outlaws in enemy territory. This should disturb us. Jesus needs followers who understand the importance of territory. To establish the Kingdom of God on earth, God needs a church that can take spiritual control of territory for him and push the spiritual powers of evil out of it.

No matter how strong and army, it can rarely seize control of a big area of territory in one attack, because it will become over-extended. A better approach is to attack a small pocket of territory, clear out all the opposition and establish strong defences, before pushing out from that stronghold to take more territory, and repeat the process of establishing control over it.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Weapons for Saudi Arabia

I don’t understand why Donald Trump is so keen to be sell military weapons to Saudi Arabia, as they will end up in the wrong hands.

When the Saudi regime in Arabia collapses, as it inevitably will, the weapons will end up in the hands of ISIS, in whatever incarnation it takes there.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Legalism

I don’t like the word legalism, because it implies that laws are a problem. They are not.

The reality is that human society cannot function without laws, so there is nothing wrong with laws in themselves.

God was quite happy to give laws to his people, because he understood that they are useful for restraining the worst effects of evil.

Jesus gave plenty of commands/laws.

  • Love one another
  • Forgive those who forgive you.
  • Turn the other cheek.
  • Give away your possessions
  • Go and proclaim the good news.
Jesus wants us to know how to follow him, so he told people what he required of them.

The problem is not with laws and commands. They are as good as the person giving them.

A problem occurs when humans use laws and commands to prove they are righteous, so they deserve God’s blessing. That is what the Pharisees did. They used the law, or more correctly, a big list of rules that they selected and derived from the law, to prove that they were righteous and therefore deserved Gods blessings.

Some call this legalism, but it is better to call it Phariseeism, or human religious effort. The Pharisees believed that God would bless Israel if enough people proved their righteousness by obeying their rules. Their religion was

Do ► Receive
Most religions operate on this approach.

God operates the opposite way. His rescue of the Israelites was

Receive ► Do

The gospel of Jesus is

Receive ► Do

God gives us what we don’t deserve, and we respond with love and obey his commands.

Under a “Do ► Receive” approach, the requirements of laws and rules become an impossible burden, just like the rules of the Pharisees.

Under a “Receive ► Do”, laws and commands are a pathway to transformation. God graciously gives us the Holy Spirit, even though we do not deserve this gift. As we receive him into our lives, listen to his voice, and allow him to soften our hearts, we find that we are beginning to do what the Sermon on the Mount requires.

The Sermon on the Mounts is not a set of commands that we must obey to please Jesus. That would be impossible. They are a description of the life that emerges in the body of Christ as the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts and inspires us to love one another.

Do ► Receive becomes an impossible burden.

Receive ► Do is the pathway to life.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Reading the Old Testament

I have always tried to read different translations to get a different perspective. At the moment, I am using John Goldingay’s translation called First Testament. The translation has the following features.

  • It sticks close to the way that Hebrew works rather than paraphrasing it, so the readers can get as close as possible to the details of the original text. Consequently, it is more suitable for a slow read than for reading out loud.

  • Where a sentence does not make sense in the Hebrew, he has left it that way.

  • Goldingay tries to use the same English word every time a Hebrew word is used, so readers can see the points of connection between passages

  • It uses God’s name Yahweh. That is the name that he said would be used forever.

  • He transliterates many of the names from the Hebrew, rather than using the anglicised versions most other translations use, eg Mosheh for Moses, Yisra’el for Israel, Ya’aqob for Jacob.

I am finding this translation really refreshing.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Azaelea

The early settlers in New Zealand made some dreadful mistakes. The bought in rabbits, weasels, stoats, ferrets, opossums, gorse, broom for what seemed like good reasons, but they turned into pests which have seriously damaged the native flora and fauna.

One thing they did right was bringing in azaleas and rhododendrons. They have really thrived in the New Zealand climate and added beautiful colours to our gardens.

These two small ones are in our garden.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Mid-term Elections

The prophetic websites are urging Christians to pray for the mid-term elections in the United States. They believe that this is a critical election for the nation.

This is a funny understanding of prayer. God knows what is good for America, so Christians do not need to pray to persuade him to change his mind.

More important, God does not force people to act against their will. He created us to be free, so he respects human freedom. Therefore, he will not force people to vote differently from the way that they want. Because God will not force people to vote against their will, he cannot change the results of the election.

Democracy is a system of human government. It is a method for revealing the preferences of the people. It is designed so that it does not identify the will of God.

The results of the mid-term elections will be determined by the American people, not by God. Humans must take responsibility for the results of their voting. They cannot blame God for the consequences.

Christians praying that God will change the election result are asking him to do something that he will not do.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Law and Grace

When criticising the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law, Jesus said these words.

You have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faith (Matt 23:23).
We all understand that the law dealt with justice. But Jesus is clear that mercy and faith are also important aspects of the law. The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had missed this truth.

If we read God’s law in Exodus and Deuteronomy and see only justice, and miss the faith and mercy that Jesus saw, we are reading it like the Pharisees. We need to read the law like Jesus, so that we see the mercy and faith, as well as the justice.

More at Law and Grace.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Definition of Economics

I have a broad definition of Economics. It is a study of the way that life in the world works, in all its aspects.

That means that Christian Economics is a study of the way that God wants the world that he created to function. It is a study of how God wants the people that he created to live on earth.

See God's Economy.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Complete Message

The message of modern Christian prophets often has two parts.

  • God has great things that he wants to do through his people. These are really amazing.
  • His people will need to change the way that they are living to receive it.
We tend to focus on the first part, but often ignore the second part. Even the prophets tend to amplify the first part and play down the second.

The consequence is that the changes needed are often not made, and so the promise of the first part cannot be received. People then say that the promise was not true. They reject the prophet’s word.

However, the reason we do not receive what God has promised is that we have not made the changes necessary to receive it.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Territory

Territory is critical to the Government of God. God has given humans authority on earth, so he needs places where people have given him permission to work. To defeat the spiritual powers of evil, he needs places where his people have given the Holy Spirit full freedom to operate. A single house or a church building does not give him much scope. The Holy Spirit will be more effective, if his followers establish a stronghold in a group of dwellings close to each other.

The best way to take territory for Jesus is a group of his followers living close together in one place. Living in unity in the same place expands their spiritual authority, because Jesus promises to be there with them.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matt 18:20).
They have authority in their homes. By standing together, they have authority to force the spiritual powers of evil to leave the vicinity of their homes.

A small group of believers living at the same location, united by love and submitted to Jesus can resist the spiritual powers of evil and force them to flee some territory.

Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in the spiritual realms (Mat 18:18).
When three or four families who are united by their love of Jesus and empowered by the Spirit move to a place and live close to each other, they can drive out the spiritual powers of evil that control it. If one family had moved on their own, they would struggle, because the powers of evil could concentrate to pick them off.

If the people living in a cluster of dwellings follow Jesus and stand together against the spiritual powers of evil, they can establish an evil spirit-free zone where the Holy Spirit is free to work.

When people are led by the Spirit to live close together, they can stand against the attacks of the enemy and establish a place where Jesus has authority. When group of people who are united in love and empowered by the spirit live in the same place, they can take that territory for Jesus. (from Government of God, p.48).

Friday, October 19, 2018

Good News

God created this world for us to enjoy with him.
Unfortunately, the spiritual powers of evil tricked humans into surrendering their authority over the earth to them.

Jesus rescued us from their power by paying the ransom that spiritual powers of evil demanded, human blood. The blood of the Son of God is infinitely valuable so they had to accept the payment he offered.

The spiritual powers of evil also demanded that God enforce the penalties specified in the law against all who had done wrong. Jesus paid the penalty with his blood, nullifying the charge against us.

God forgave us for our failings, and sent his Holy Spirit into the world to walk with us, but humans’ shame prevents us from drawing near to him. Jesus dealt with human shame by washing us clean with his blood.

All these benefits are available to anyone who surrenders their allegiance to Jesus.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Human Salvation

Humans need salvation. The problems emerged almost immediately after the fall.

  1. The first problem to emerge was human shame. Adam and Eve were ashamed as soon as God came near. They ran away and hid from him. This has been an ongoing problem. Humans need his wisdom, but they have been unable to draw near to Him, because they get overwhelmed by guilt and shame. We need God’s help, but we cannot bear to be close to him.

  2. The second problem to emerge was the loss of authority on earth. This became evident soon after they sinned. When they submitted to the deceiver, they surrendered their authority over the earth to him. This shift of authority gave the spiritual powers of evil work evil on the earth.

  3. The third problem did not become evident until much later. Satan grasped the power to accuse, but his basis for making charges against humans was not very strong (except for murder - Gen 9:6).

This problem only became serious when the law was given, because it gave him a stronger basis for making accusations. He was able to demand that the penalties specified in the law. Paul explained this further.
Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam (Rom 5:12-14).
Sin entered the world through one man. “Sin” is a powerful ruler spirit (Cosmos Dominators). It could be a separate or another name for Satan the deceiver. When Sin came into the world, another spirit called “Death” gained control of the earth. He was a destroyer who worked to destroy everything on God’s earth.

Sin’s power was limited until the giving of the law.

Sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law (Rom 5:13).
The spirit called Sin had limited power before Moses gave the law, because no penalties for sin had been given. No penalties have been specified that he could demand. Accusing was pointless, because there was no penalty that could be demanded. Until the law was given, the power of Death and Destruction was more effective.
Death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses (Rom 5:14).
The giving of the law empowered Sin, the accuser.
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase (Rom 5:20).
In the law, God specified penalties for sin to provide spiritual protection for his people. Sexual sins open people up to evil spirits, especially if one party is hostile to God. Preventing inappropriate sexual liaison was essential for maintaining an evil-spirit-free land. However, Satan twisted the law and used it to accuse the people before God. He demanded the right to implement the penalties of the law against all who sinned.

The law recognised human fallibility. It actually had sacrifices for sins committed without realising, because everyone would sin (Lev 4:1-2). Jesus explained the anger that anger and lust are forbidden by the law (Matt 5:21-30). This covers nearly everyone, so everyone has sinned. The tabernacle sacrifices dealt with guilt and shame, but they do not make us righteous.

The law was not given to make people righteous. The law was given for three purposes.

  1. spiritual protection.
  2. removing guilt and shame, so people could be close to God.
  3. Allow people to live together in a close community.
God always intended that the last day would be a day of justice. People would be rewarded for what they experienced on earth. People who had suffered on earth would be compensated in eternity. People who had proved trustworthy on earth would be given extra responsibility in the next life. God is a good judge who will ensure that no one misses out and everyone gets what they deserve.

The accuser knew that he would have lost his influence by the time of the day of justice, so he forced God into being a judge in the present age. He went to God with accusations against his people and demanded the penalties specified in the law.

Friday, October 12, 2018

War and Peace

I have just finished reading War and Peace by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy. I first read this book when I was twenty, and thought that it was the best novel that I had read. I have read many more books since then, and still think that it is one of the best books I have read (Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is one that equals it).

Tolstoy tells the story of the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. Napoleon burned Moscow, before the cold winter forced a destructive retreat. Tolstoy vividly describes the horror and futility of war.

Tolstoy’s portrayal of his numerous characters is deft. He often describes the character of person in a few subtle sentences. His is critical of high society, and exposes the artificiality of the people who were respected in the best social circles.

The book is interspersed with Tolstoy’s philosophy of history. His main point is that important people are not as influential as they think they are. Political leaders get carried away by the flow if history and do things that they did not intend to.

The generals make detailed plans in the advance of the battle, but they are usually wrong, because they do not understand the geography of the battle ground and the positioning of their forces. Once the battle starts, everything quickly changes and their plan becomes impractical. The generals are usually too far back from the battle to see what is really happening, but they continue to send messengers with new orders and instructions. Unfortunately, by the time the messenger gets to the relevant commanders, the situation has changed, and the instructions are irrelevant or impossible to implement. Often instructions were ignored, because the people on the frontline are scared, confused, or want to push their own agenda.

Tolstoy shows how the turning point in a battle is often the result of a few inconsequential people. Some cries out, “We are finished”, and everyone begins to flee. Or a soldier’s horse bolts and leads him on a charge towards the opposing infantry. In each case, many thousands of others follow and the battle is turned.

The relationships between the various members of the families at the centre of the narrative is fascinating too. They keep popping up in unexpected places, but this keeps the book interesting to the end.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Trade Deficits

Steve H. Hanke of the Johns Hopkins University explains trade deficits.

President Trump, and most in his administration, believe that the U.S. trade deficit is a “bad” thing caused by foreigners who engage in unfair trade practices. For them, the solution is U.S. imposed tariffs and other anti-trade measures. What a nostrum. Our trade deficit is made in the good, old U.S.A., not by foreigners engaging in “unfair” trade practices. Tariffs will not change the overall U.S. trade balance.

How could this be? In economics, identities play an important role. These identities are obtained by equating two different breakdowns of a single aggregate. Identities are interesting, and usually important, by definition. In national income accounting, the following identity can be derived. It is the key to understanding the trade deficit.

(Imports - Exports) ≡ (Investment - Savings) + (Government Spending - Taxes)
Given this identity, which must hold, the trade deficit is equal to the excess of private sector investment minus savings, plus government spending minus tax revenue. So, the counterpart of the trade deficit is the sum of the private sector deficit and the government deficit (federal + state and local). The U.S. trade deficit, therefore, is just the mirror image of what is happening in the U.S. domestic economy. If expenditures in the U.S. exceed the incomes produced, which they do, the excess expenditures will be met by an excess of imports over exports (read: a trade deficit).

So, if tariffs and other anti-trade measures don’t affect the overall U.S. trade balance, what do they do? They simply alter the playing field and the bilateral trade deficits that the U.S. runs with various countries. The total U.S. trade balance remains unaltered; however, the U.S. consumer is not unaltered. Shifting sources for U.S. imports means that U.S. purchasers will be forced to move away from their first choices to second best choices.

But, how can the U.S. continue to rack up big trade deficits year-after-year? The U.S. can do this by borrowing internationally to finance its trade deficit (read: the domestic savings deficiency). And, because the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency, the U.S. can borrow at attractive rates. Indeed, the dollar’s reserve currency status gives the U.S. what the former French President ValĂ©ry Giscard d’Estaing described as an “exorbitant privilege.” This privilege is simple: the issuer of the world’s reserve currency and its citizens can borrow “cheap.” The privilege works like a charm as long as the reserve currency stays on top. But, kings can be toppled. Remember when the pound sterling was the world’s reserve currency? Well, when the pound was replaced by the greenback, the exorbitant privilege baton was passed from the United Kingdom to the United States.

So, while trade deficits have not proven to be a burden while the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency, a burden might rear its ugly head if the greenback were to be knocked off its top spot.




Monday, October 08, 2018

Salvation by Law

Christians believe in salvation by grace, not by law, yet they constantly slip back into wanting salvation by law. They believe that the law cannot change human hearts, yet they seem to want to use law to change people’s behavior.

Currently many want to use law to eliminate abortion. Without a change in heart, that will not happen. During the 1960s, western culture chose to have greater sexual freedom and cast off many social restraints. The culture chose sexual freedom, and it has not changed its mind. Once that change of heart occurred, abortion was inevitable, and still is.

American Evangelicals have got their man on the supreme court, but I except that they will be disappointed. Even he the votes to overturn Roe v Wade, which is unlikely because he will be reluctant to diminish federal authority, abortion will continue to be demanded in America, because attitudes to sexual freedom have not changed. Some states have already legalized abortion and more will do the same, making it available to most women.

Brett Kavanaugh is a product of the Washington Establishment. In his career as a judge, he has been a consistent supporter of state power. I presume that he will continue to be an advocate for the accumulation of military and political power. If American continues down the path to become the Beast of Revelation, a supreme court lead by Brett Kavanaugh will not restrain it. He will remain silent in support of his political friends, just as his friends remained silent to support him.

If Christians want to prevent abortion, they should get on with living and proclaiming their gospel, because it has the power to change lives.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Supreme Court

American Christians are really stirred up about Donald Trump’s nomination for the supreme court. Some believe that Brett Kavanagh is the man that God has chosen. Other are shocked that a man accused of assaulting a woman can be a supreme court judge. Judging be social media comments, the division is getting ugly. It seems that many Christians believe that getting the wrong person appointed to the supreme court could prevent the Kingdom of God from emerging in the United States.

This ugly dispute misses the point. There is no supreme court in God’s plan for his Kingdom. There is not supreme court in the scriptures. A supreme court cannot be justified from the scriptures.

In the Bible, God is the lawgiver and God is the judge, not the US supreme court. A human court using the principles of a human constitution to make human decisions has nothing to do with the Kingdom.

In the Kingdom of God, the role of law is limited to local judges applying God’s law. (See the Government of God). Since a supreme court is not needed for the advance of the Kingdom of God, the appointment of a judge is irrelevant to God’s purposes.

The United States constitution is not God-breathed; it is just a human ordinance. The supreme court is just another human institution that gives the people what they want. When the people wanted slavery, the supreme court approved of slavery (Dred Scott) When the people wanted abortion, the supreme court approved it in a newly discovered it right to privacy.

The supreme court is not the voice of God; it is the voice of man. It is a political institution. If it were just a group of wise people making decisions purely on the basis of the constitution, it would not matter which president appointee the justices. the fact that Presidents want to stack the court confirms that it is a political institutions. Human political institutions have no place in the Kingdom of God.

If the Kingdom of God comes to fullness in the United States, the supreme court will disappear. That should be the hope of those who seek God.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Shepherds

According Ezekiel 34, the main task of a shepherd is to heal the sick and bind up the wounded. Yet churches everywhere are full of sick and broken people. Ezekiel says that this is because the shepherds have not cared for the sheep.

He says that the shepherds rule the sheep harshly and brutally. Preaching at people is one way this happens. (A challenging sermon, almost always leave some people feeling condemned). Healing the sheep should be a higher priority than preaching at them.

James 5 says that anyone who is sick should be able to go to the elders and be healed. The elders of a church should have the gift of healing among them.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Training

An army is not trained by gathering all the soldiers, from generals to privates for two hours a week and spending the first 30 minutes singing battle songs and the next hour listening to a general lecturing on tactics and the history of war. This would make a very ineffective army.

Soldiers need to learn discipline, obedience and weapon skills. These skills are learned by doing drills. They are not fully trained until they are battle hardened. Most soldiers are not trained by generals, but by NCOs. The generals concentrate on tactics and planning (Being Church Where We Live, p.95).

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Visions

When someone writes to me about a vision they have received, I suggest there are several questions that they need to answer.

Why?
Why do they get these visions? Are they for them to strengthen their prayer times. Or are they something that they need to share.

Who?
What are they for? There are many possible answers: them, their church, someone they know, the wider church, people in the world. They need to know who the vision is for.

How?
If a vision is for sharing, how does God want them to share it? He can tell them.

Format: The communication will be different from the revelation. They are not the same.

Medium: How does God want the communication spread. Preaching a sermon is just one possible way. A message can be shared in a variety of ways, depending on who is it for.

They need to get answers to all these questions.