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.