Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Warning without Judgment

Some Christian prophets like to announce the judgments of God on peoples and nations, but this is a misunderstanding of their role.

The common view that the Old Testament prophets announced God’s judgment on the children of Israel, or the surrounding nations is not quite right. The Hebrew word for “judgment” is mishpat. It means a judicial judgment or verdict. It is never used to describe the message of the Old Testament prophecies.

The Old Testament prophets only rarely used this word to describe the message they were proclaiming. They spoke frequently about the failure of kings and judges to give wise judgment (mishpat) (Isaiah 42:3 and Jer 21:9 are examples), and they spoke of God’s verdict (mishpat) on Israel’s behaviour, but they never referred to the events they were announcing as God’s judgments.

The prophets were actually warning of the consequences of rejecting God and his law. The law provided Israel with protection from the spiritual powers of evil. When they rejected God and stopped applying his law, they lost their spiritual protection. This enabled the spiritual powers of evil to attack them and wreak havoc on their land. God’s verdict on Israel’s behaviour gave the evil powers authority to act and bring harm to the nation.

The Mosaic law provided the Israelites with spiritual protection. Obeying the law kept them separate from people and things carrying evil spirits. The tabernacle sacrifices provided further protection. When the people rejected the law, they lost that protection and the spiritual powers of evil were able to work their harm and make the land desolate. The role of the OT prophets was to announce the consequences of rejecting God and the spiritual protection that his law provided.

God was not the initiator of the troubles released by the rebellion of the children of Israel. They were inflicted by the spiritual powers of evil. They gained the power to do this, because the people had squeezed God out of the land so he could not protect them. The people cut themselves off from the protection that God provided through the law.

The troubles announced by the prophets were initiated by the spiritual powers of evil when they had gained a free hand in the land. The prophets did not understand the operation of these spiritual powers, so they often described the coming troubles as if God was responsible for them. He seemed to be happy taking responsibility for these events, because he created the situation where they could occur.

In the modern world, God loves the people of the world, even when they have rejected him. He does not want to harm them, even if they deserve it. His desire is to rescue them and protect them from the spiritual powers of evil, but many choose not to be rescued by him, partly because they do not realise it is possible. Because he loves them, he does not use his prophets to pronounce curses or judgments against them. He loves the people of the world and wants their friendship.

Because they have rejected God, the people of the world are vulnerable to attack by the spiritual powers of evil. These attacks are the consequence of their rejection of his love and the protection that he could provide. God knows what the spiritual powers of evil are planning to do, so he can use his prophets to warn his people of the harm they are planning.

God does not use his prophets to announce his judgment on the people of the world, because that would nullify the message that he loves them. The message of the prophets should be the message of Jesus.

God loved the world so much that he sent his son so it would not perish (John 3:16).
God may use his prophets to warn the people of what the spiritual powers of evil will be able to do because he has not been able to rescue them. He does this in the hope that they would turn to him for help so he can rescue them from what the spiritual powers of evil plan to do.

God has not made a similar covenant with the nations, so the consequences of disobedience described in Deuteronomy 28 do not apply to them. However, the people of the world are engaged in the same spiritual battle as the children of Israel. The spiritual powers of evil are not very creative, so they used the same methods to attack them as they used against the children of Israel. If the people of nations do not have the spiritual protection provided by the cross, they will vulnerable to evil, just like Israelites when they rejected the law. They can expect the same types of troubles and plagues as the OT prophets announced for Israel.

Christian prophets may sometimes need to warn the people of the world of the consequence of rejecting God’s offer to rescue them. However, they must not say that God is judging them or that he is initiating the events that they are prophesying. The prophets must explain that dark events are the works of the spiritual powers of evil. They should declare that God still loves them and wants to rescue them from the trouble that is coming.

The Old Testament prophets were sometimes blunt because they did not have the fullness of the Spirit that we have. God was not reaching out to the nations in their season, so it did not matter too much, but in the new covenant age, excessive bluntness and condemnation is an obstacle to a gospel of God’s love.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Socialism (8) American Corporatism

Claiming that the economic system that operates in the United States is superior to socialism is misleading. Most American corporatism’s big businesses collude with the government to protect their patch. They cluster in Washington DC, looking for subsidies and bailouts, and press for laws that protect them from real competition. American corporatism is socialism for big business.

Claims that corporate socialism is superior to ordinary socialism will not work. Under corporatism, government money and power flow to the benefit of big corporates and then on to their wealthy owners. The classic example is the government generosity to the big businesses that caused the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. Those who criticise socialism, but remain silent about follows wealth, money and power to the benefit of big business are being dishonest.

Neither corporatism or socialism are ideal economic systems. Both have serious flaws. The ideal economic system is God’s Economy under the Government of God.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Socialism (7) My Experience

On a holiday-weekend last July, I developed severe abdominal pain. I have never had a urinary tract infection, so I wondered if that was the cause. I went to the after-hours health clinic and was examined by a doctor. They did some blood tests, and he prescribed an antibiotic, because the physical examination indicated that could have a bladder infection. Over the next couple of days, the pain went away.

On the following Tuesday, I got a phone call from my own GP (general practitioner doctor) who had received the results of my blood test electronically. He said that the tests indicated something more serious and that he wanted me to have a CT Scan to check it out. Strangely enough, by then, the pain had gone. The same afternoon, I received a phone call from Pacific Radiology with an appointment for a scan later that day.

When the scan was complete, the radiographer suggested that I needed to go back to my GP that night. I phoned his reception and she said that he would see me after his last appointment at 5pm. The radiographer said that he would have the electronic results of my scan would be available for the doctor to see by then.

I called to see my GP on the way home from the radiology service and he explained that my scan showed that I had severe diverticulitis, which is normal for someone my age, but that diverticular on the lower part of the bowel was seriously infected. He said that I needed to be admitted to hospital to receive Intravenous Antibiotics. He told me I should go home and pack a bag and go up to Christchurch Public Hospital and I would be admitted.

I was admitted to hospital at 8pm, was examined by a doctor and received my first antibiotics within about half an hour. This all happened within a half a day of my doctor receiving the results of my blood tests.

I stayed in the hospital for five nights, receiving IV antibiotics three times a day. The hospital staff were great. The meals were basic but good. The nurses were kind and thoughtful. The surgical registrar who visited every morning was very skilled at explaining the nature of my problem and what they were doing to treat it. She said that they would organise a colonoscopy in a few months’ time, when the inflammation in my colon had cleared. After five days my blood test had returned within the normal limit, so I was sent home with oral antibiotics for another week. Six months have passed now and I have no more problems with my bowel.

Two other things happened. The original scan identified two other incidental unrelated problems that needed to be checked out. The first incidental item was a narrowing of the duct coming out of my left kidney. A month later, I received an appointment for a CT Urogram to check this. After injecting a marker, they electronically monitored the impact on my kidney while my bladder was emptying. A week later I saw a urologist. He explained that my case had been discussed at a meeting of specialists. They had reviewed my results and decided that because I was asymptomatic, and an intervention to correct the problem is quite risky, they would take no further action, but continue to monitor how it developed.

The second incidental problem that was identified on the original scan was a cyst on my pancreas. Within about six weeks, I had a received an endoscopic ultrasound scan of my pancreas in which they put a tube down my throat and took a picture and biopsy of the cyst. When I met with a general surgeon a few weeks later, he explained that because the cyst was small and benign, they would prefer not to intervene, but would wait and check it again in six month’s time. His decision had been discussed with other specialists. He explained that it grew larger or became malignant, then it would be relatively easy to remove by surgical intervention.

The outcome was reassuring. Overall, I am really healthy for someone of my age. I am praying for the conditions to be healed.

My main point for recording this here is that I received this medical care from a socialistic health system. The only cost was a payment of $NZ50 for my original consultation at the after-hours medical centre. Everything else was covered by the health system. The urgent medical condition was treated urgently. I received a scan and was put on antibiotics on the day the problem was diagnosed. I received specialised scans and follow-up appointments for the two incidental issues within a couple of months of diagnosis.

All the decisions about my treatment were made by clinicians after discussion with other specialists, not by insurance administrators or blind application of rules. Some of the specialists that looked at my results engaged in ground-breaking research with collaborators in the UK and US.
I realise that the cost of this service was paid for out of my taxes. However, my taxes over the years, and have not been much greater than would have been paid if I lived in the United States.

So, people who say that socialist health care does not work simply do not know what they are talking about. Morality is a different issue.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Socialism (6) Effective Medical System

New Zealand has a socialist health care system. Most health care is funded by the government, ie it is a single-payer system. District Health Boards receive grants from the government and are required to provide health care for the people living in their district. The government specifies the quality and quantity of the service that they must provide.

People are free to have medical insurance if they choose. Medical insurance is mostly taken out by people who are quite well off. The benefit is that they can get elective surgery, for knee and hip replacements quicker. However, most acute surgery is provided by the public system. Treatment of chronic sickness cancer is mostly provided by the public system, even for people with medical insurance. The difference is that people with medical insurance can sometimes get new extremely expensive cancer drugs that are not yet available through the public system.

A government entity called Pharmac purchases all prescription drugs and medicines. The big pharmaceutical companies hate it, but being the single buyer for the entire nations enables it to get better purchase prices by pitting them against each other. This limits brand choice a little, but the lower costs mostly outweigh this disadvantage.

My impression is that the NZ healthcare systems functions much better than the United States insurance-based system, yet it costs much less. New Zealand spends about 10 percent of GDP on health care, whereas the United States spends nearly 20 percent (of a much larger GDP). We don’t have people going bankrupt because their medical insurance has introduced unexpected charges. We do not have people who cannot get treatment, because the insurance has failed. Life expectancy is increasing and infant morbidity is declining, unlike the Unites States where the opposite is happening.

The US health care is not free market. It is an uneasy collusion between big insurance, big pharma, big health care providers and the government. This is corporatism, and it does not serve people well.

People who say that socialist health care does now work do not know what they are talking back. Socialist health care does not always work, if the government undermines it by providing insufficient funds, as has happened with the UK system or if the managers of the system are foolish or corrupt, but that happens in insurance-based systems too.

Many American tourists visiting New Zealand who find themselves needing emergency surgery receive it without hesitation. If they are having health insurance, a claim is made on their insurance. Those without health insurance cover still receive surgery. They are given an account when they leave hospital, which they are supposed to pay. Unfortunately, many don’t. Once they leave the country, they just forget about paying for the service they have received. The legal costs for pursuing them are too great, so their debts eventually have to be written off. I find it ironic that people who believe in free markets, who can afford international travel, are quite happy to rip off a system that they think is inferior.

Saying that socialism never works is a bad argument, because there are plenty of situation and examples where it works well. If Christians wish to argue against socialism, they need to do it on moral grounds on pragmatic grounds. Arguments that one system works better than the other will usually fail.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Socialism (5) Management

If sufficient resources are available, and there is clear demand for the output, the difference between a successful project and a failure is the quality of the managers. This is true whether the project is free-market or socialist. Some socialist projects attract really good managers. That is the situation with the health care system in my city. It was true of the government department of works that built the hydro-electric schemes in the South Island.

Many projects end up with poor management teams. That happens for many socialist projects, but it happens just as often for free-market projects. Identifying good managers is not easy and the owners of a business often get it wrong. Fonterra is a large dairy cooperative owned by New Zealand dairy farmers that processes much of the milk produced in New Zealand. In the last few years, it has been managed really badly and had to write off several large investments, because the CEO was not up to the task, despite being recruited from overseas with free-market experience and paid a huge salary.

Another example is the large Australian construction company, which has messed up the construction of a new hospital in Christchurch.

Good management is not as common as we would hope, and bad management is ubiquitous. That happens regardless of whether the project is free market or socialist.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Socialism (4) Democratic or Autocratic

Another common confusion is that socialism always leads to authoritarian government. Many Christian believe that socialism is the first step toward a Nazi government.

Socialism is a system of economic organisation in which the government plays a very significant role. A socialist economic system can exist in a country with a democratic government. However, it can also exist under an authoritarian government. The Soviet Union is an example of latter. However, there are plenty of governments that operate a socialist economic system under a democratic government without falling into authoritarianism.

New Zealand has a very strong system of democracy. I would say it operates more effectively than the system that Americans are so proud of. Socialist policies have been implemented in New Zealand for many years, without any threat to democracy. Because democracy has delivered what people want, some socialist policies have actually strengthened democracy.

On the other hand, many of the governments in nations where the US has established its brand of capitalism turned out to be autocratic and dangerous. Chile is an example.

Socialism does not inevitably lead to an authoritarian/totalitarian government.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Socialism (3) Success and Failure

I commonly see the following comment on blogs and Facebook, as if it solves everything.

Socialism always fails.
Unfortunately, this statement proves nothing.

Socialism often does fail. That is not surprising. Humans are fallen, fallible beings, living in a world where a spiritual battle is going on. So much of what we do fails.

But there have been enough socialistic successes to prove the comment above is wrong. NASA’s project to put a man on the moon was a successful socialist project. The US efforts to build ships, tanks and trucks during World War 2 was another socialist project that succeeded.
New Zealand has always been a fairly socialist country. I have observed many failures, but there are sufficient successes to prevent me from saying that socialism always fails. The socialistic health system that operates in the city where I live is an example of successful socialistic activity. I will write about it in a future post.

Another example is the socialist hydroelectricity system that was built in New Zealand during the last half of the last century. The Department of Works built a network of power stations on the large rivers in the South Island. This department was run by some clever engineers, who built an efficient system that still provides a significant share of our nation’s electricity needs. They built on international standard rowing course on the side.

The same applies to free-market activities. There have been plenty of free-market failures. The United States banking system failed numerous times throughout its history. It failed hugely during the 2008 GFC, and would have collapsed, were it not for an enormous socialistic rescue by the government.

Some churches, maybe under a Calvinistic influence, think that markets work all things for good. That is not true. Only God can do that.
Socialism fails most frequently due to misallocation of resources. People with political power are frequently tempted to build white elephant projects or vanity projects that fail. Free markets activities also fail due to misallocation of resources. If all the nations entrepreneurs are dull, they often sit on their property and use their capital unwisely, causing their nation to suffer.

Comparing companies does not prove much, because these days all countries operate under a mixture of socialism and free markets. There is far more socialism in the United States than most Christians realise. Americans appear happy enough with a wide range of socialist institutions in the United States, including public schools, defence forces, public parks, social security, public radio, unemployment insurance, public universities, Medicare, public libraries and space exploration.

And Corporatism is stronger in the United States than anywhere in the world, so the United States is not a free-market economy. In terms of numbers, there are a large number of self-employed people and small companies that have to operate on a free-market basis. But in terms of GDP, the US economy is dominated by a relatively few large corporates, which collude with the government to protect their privilege and position. Many of the large corporates get a big chunk of their revenue from the government, especially military equipment manufacturers.

The only argument in favour of free markets over socialism is the moral one. If John works hard for his income, other people do not have the right to take some of it from him and spend it. If Janet has started a business, and operates morally and legally, then other people do not have the right to take her profits for themselves. Nothing is changed, if it is governments that are taking the income or profit. It is still stealing something that belongs to someone else.

We should stick to the moral argument when arguing against socialism.

Of course, the morally superior option does not always give the best financial rewards. Sometimes people who do good suffer. Plenty of people operate a business that would benefit people, but due to the vagaries of the free market, they have failed. However, it is better to do what is right, than to become rich.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Socialism (2) Necessary

A nation that does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and is not based on Kingdom Communities will need some form of socialism to prevent it becoming harsh and cruel. In any free market system, some people will fail and suffer. Unless there is a compassionate Christian community to sustain them, they will drop through the cracks. A government-based safety net will be necessary.

Being Christians is not enough. Here is what is happening in the United States. The drastic increase in inequality of wealth in America is described by Deutsche Bank, in their January 2018 study “U.S. Income and Wealth Inequality”.

The U.S. is comparable to Chile, Israel, Mexico, Portugal, and Turkey, as being at the top of the nations studied, in “inequality in household disposable income.”

A record high 30% of households have no wealth in the United States (p6).

All-time high median net worth in constant dollars was 2007, at $119,000, declined to $67,000 in 2010, and rose to $78,000 by 2016 (p.7).

U.S.: The top 0.1% in the US owns as many assets as the bottom 90% (p.8).

U.S. has higher income-inequality than any other OECD nation (p.10).

Income-inequality is rising faster in U.S. than any other OECD nation (p.11).
The socialist option is always second best, and rarely truly effective, but it is better than this ugly alternative. The best option is always Kingdom Communities based on loving one another and serving Jesus as Lord.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Socialism (1) Choice

Many opinion polls are reporting that young Americans would welcome socialism. This disturbs many Christians, but I am not surprised by this preference.

Young Americans are not rejecting free market-capitalism. They are waking up that the government-supported corporatism that dominates the US economy is not nice, although it is often called free-market capitalism. They are rejecting a system that they don’t like, not a system that they don’t know. The US economic system is so far from textbook free-market capitalism that they learned in their civics classes that they do not know what it would look like if it existed.

Young people look at their existing economic system, and they do not like it. They dislike the way that rich people are getting much richer and they hate the way that the weak are being impoverished and realise something is wrong. They have been taught that the American economic system is free-market capitalism, even though it is not, so they reject it and start looking for something better.

The American system is actually a combination of corporatism and oligarchy, but because they have been told it is free-market capitalism, they naturally oppose the latter. They have also been taught that the only alternative to free-market capitalism is socialism, so it is natural that they prefer socialism, because it cannot be worse than the dreadful system they have now.

Young Americans don’t know what free-market capitalism looks like, because they have not seen it. All they know is they do not like the dreadful system that has emerged in its place in America. They want something better, but they assume that the only option is socialism.

I am not surprised that young Americans feel an inclination towards socialism, because the system that is currently called a free-market system is an ugly misrepresentation of it. It is just an expression of dislike for the existing system. They want something much better, and socialism is the only option that offers that.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Gems from Brian Zahnd

Here are some gems from Brian Zahnd.

The gospel preached by the apostles had no appeal to afterlife issues. The core of their gospel was that the world has a new emperor, a new lord, a new Caesar. Forgiveness of sins is offered in his name. The main message is that you must come under the reign and rule this new kingdom, be baptises, pledge allegiance to him and become part of this new way of arranging society that God has inaugurated through Jesus.

*

Until we can see the Kingdom of God, politics trumps everything. If we see the gospel as a ticket to heaven, then between here and heaven, we have to figure out some way to run the world. We end up investing a lot of energy, even putting faith in political parties. Jesus is reduced to being an endorsement of their political agendas.

Jesus is Lord. He has his own politics.

*

No political party can embody the kingdom of God. Only the church can do it.

Stanley Hauerwas says, “The church does not have a social policy. The church is a social policy”.

“We need to change the world”, are dangerous words, because we get tempted to reach for the coercive power of Caesar’s sword.

The task of the church is not to change the world directly, the task of the church is to be that part of the world already changed by Jesus. Then we live that out as a colony, a community of believers in the wider world.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Political Power (4) Public Service

They are called public servants, but the people who staff government departments are usually more devoted to advancing their own careers than doing what is best for the people of the nation.

The big problem is that the public service is the home of many mediocre people. They are often incapable of doing the tasks that they are responsible for. Really skilful people are often shut down or squeezed out because other people are threatened by them. This means that government departments often fail to carry out the wishes of the minster, even if they support them. Things go wrong with the process, and by the time the problems are sorted out, it is too late.

This creates a huge problem. The public service is the most powerful part of the political/government system. They are also the most incompetent. The people who rise to the top are often the people who know how to grease those above him. Those who challenge bad ideas find themselves being side-lined.

The result is that modern democracy is often government by the mediocre.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Poltical Power (3) Prime Minister

Many cabinet ministers would like to become the Prime Minister. They believe that this would give them real power. Unfortunately, the prime minister has far less power than they expect. The Prime Minister does not have a government department to carry out their wishes. They have assigned all of them out to the members of their cabinet. They depend on them to carry out the party’s political promises.

A few cabinet ministers will be really effective and get their plans implemented. A few will be incompetent, and the rest will be mediocre, because they have been given a task they have never done before. The inevitable consequence is that most of the party’s plans do not get implemented.

The main thing the Prime Minister has to do is to identify early the cabinet ministers that are incompetent, and get rid of them before they do too much harm. They have to watch for disasters emerging and shut them down before they get out of control.

The other task that the Prime Minister has to do is to communicate to the public and explain to them what the government is doing. They have to be doing this constantly ready for the next election. Prime Ministers cannot do things themselves. They have to persuade others to do the things they want done. That is not easy.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Political Power (2) Cabinet Ministers

Cabinet ministers cannot do as much as they will have hoped. They have to get the government departments that support their portfolios to do things. That is not easy. The Chief Executives (CE) of Government departments are skilful operators. They have got to where they are by moving up through the ranks of the public service. They rise to the top by managing their careers to be in the right place at the right time. They know how to overcome opposition and manipulate the system to get their way. They know how to deal with people who oppose their plans.

When a new Cabinet Minister arrives, the CE will put all these finely-tuned skills into managing them and setting them on the right path. They will provide the Cabinet Minister with Briefing Notes that explain all the issues, describe the problems, and tells them what needs to be done. The CE knows far more about the situation than the minister, so it is hard for the him/her not to be co-opted to working for the goals and objectives of the government department. The new minister’s plans and dreams will be overwhelmed.

To get a proposal through cabinet, a minster has to get his department to prepare a cabinet paper. This a slow complicated process that the minister cannot do themselves. They have to get the staff of the government department that they are responsible for to prepare the paper on their behalf. Once a draft is prepared, it is circulated around all the other government departments that would be affected by the change. They will make changes and amendments to the paper. By the time that the cabinet paper is through the review process and finalised ready to present to the cabinet, it may have changed significantly from the original idea. All papers have to go to the Treasury, and they can kill an idea by saying there is no money.

The stated aim of the review process is to ensure the development of good policy. However, it can also be used to obstruct the “foolish ideas” of cabinet ministers. Government departments are very skilled in obstructing things that they do not want to do. They can let them lie around for so long that they die.

This explains why some new government fail to fulfil their election promises. To implement their manifestos, they need the support of the public service. If the leaders of the public service are not supportive, the plans of the politicians will go nowhere.

If the CE does not like the ideas of the cabinet, the minister will struggle to get it through. The CE will ensure that the opposition to the idea is organised to prevent the cabinet paper from going the distance.

Cabinet Ministers are new to their portfolios. They will usually know very little about their portfolio before they come to it. In contrast, the CE and senior staff of the department will have a detailed knowledge of the area. The cabinet minister will often be dependent on them for a detailed explanation of the issues.

The other power that the CE has in their arsenal is to give the cabinet lots of complicated detailed papers to read. This can often overwhelm them and shake their confidence in their own views.

Cabinet ministers often find themselves as servants of the public service, pushing their ideas, rather than the other way around.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Political Power (1)

People who pursue political power often find it is an illusion. Here is how it work in my country, the names are different, but the roles are similar in other countries.

Members of Parliament
Members of Parliament have very little power and influence. They have to vote in the way that their party tells them to vote.

If they want to get ahead, they need to compromise, do deals, and support proposals they do not like for the sake of party unity. They go along to get on. By the time they get to a position of power or responsibility, they are usually so compromised that they cannot go back to the way that they were when they started.

Most MPs want to become cabinet minister, because they assume that this will bring them real power. Unfortunately, it does not. They do not get to choose their portfolios. They get the one they given, not the one they might want or the place where they want to have an influence.

Monday, February 03, 2020

General/Personal Prophecies

I have noticed that on the Elijah List and on Facebook, prophetic people are releasing what appears to be general/personal prophecies, which are not directed to any one person, but are made available to a general audience. They might say something like the following: “In the next four months, God is going to be without in a powerful way that will change your life around, etc, etc”. The word is not for a particular person, but has a wide distribution making it available to anyone who claims it.

I have two questions about this practice.

First, is it valid for followers of Jesus to claim any prophetic message that resonates for themselves?

When I have read some of these general/personal prophecies on Facebook, my heart has been really stirred, and I have felt like claiming them for myself. On the other hand, I have also wondered if it was just wishful thinking, and if I was grabbing hold of something because, it was positive, even if God did not intend it for me.

The reality is that the situation of Christians over the next four months will be really variable. A few will face persecution. Some will face disruption, when people they trust let them down. Others will face sadness due to the death of someone that they love. Some may make mistakes that set them back. A few who have been pursuing the light hard might have a serious breakthrough.

The sample prophecy above would only be accurate for one of these groups, although they might not realise it when first reading it. So, I am not sure if it is entirely safe for people to claim general/personal prophecies for themselves.

At the very least, claiming a distributed general/personal prophecy should go through a similar testing process as any prophetic word received directly. It should be submitted to a couple of people the claimer trust to decide if they consider that the world is relevant to the person claiming it. The witness of the Holy Spirit will be important.

On the other hand, there is a massive shortage of personal prophecy in the church. I see it when a visiting prophet comes to town. People are queued up, desperate for a word, and many appear to be disappointed, because it is difficult for one person to give relevant words to so many people in a short time, even if they have a powerful gifting. Likewise, in a church with two or three prophets, if there are 200 members, they will struggle to deliver every one of these members a relevant prophecy when they need it.

So, while there is a shortage of prophecy, maybe the best that the Holy Spirit can do is to get personal prophecies distributed widely, so that as many people as possible can benefit from each one. This works because despite the variety of situations described above, many people are in similar circumstances, so they benefit from the same message. This is probably not optimal, but it is better than people being left stranded without a word when they need it.

I suspect that God would like to see more prophets, and more people comfortable in the gift of prophecy, but until that happens, he is using the distribution of general/personal prophecies to encourage his people. Ideally, every believer should be able to get a prophetic word from some in their circle when they need it.

I have been blessed to have received clear, direct prophetic words at key points in my journey with Jesus. They have kept me going when times were tough. The most important words were from friends operating in the gift of prophecy. A couple were delivered by visiting speakers who did not know me, which is quite encouraging, if the word is correct. I have not had the same benefit from general/personal words that I have read on Facebook, because I have always been uncertain if they really were for me.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Intercession and Authority (6) Holy Spirit

The key to intercession is to be full of the Spirit. However, we must understand that if we are in Jesus, we have the fullness of the Holy Spirit within us. We cannot have half of the Holy Spirit, or a quarter of the Holy Spirit, so we always have his fullness. Thus, if he is limited in his activity, then the problem is with us constraining him from working freely. So, the goal is to be open to his operation, so that he is free to do what he wants to do through us. I am seeking to learn to be sufficiently open to the Holy Spirit so that he can do all that he wants to do through me.

I realise that he prefers to work through small groups of people who are united by love. So, we cannot experience all he wants, if we are stuck in isolation. He prefers to work by giving different people different parts of what the wants to do, ie one has a gift of faith, another has the world of knowledge, another has the gift of healing. So, to experience more of what the wants to do, we must be united with others. Learning to work in small teams in the unity of the Holy Spirit is key.

The gospel is the best means for bringing about social change. Jesus did not tell his disciples to go and intercede with God. He told us to go and heal the sick, cast out demons, and declare the good news of his kingdom. Intercession alone is not enough. So, sharing the gospel, supported by prayer, is the key to changing the world.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Intercession and Authority (5)

Intercession is incredibly important, because it gives God permission to work on earth. I have explained why here.

However, we need to begin in the place where people are. Christians put a lot of effort into prayer, with poor results. They become frustrated, because many of their prayers are not answered. The resulting disappointment undermines their faith, which is sad. They have to shrug and pretend that their prayer not being answered does not matter. These disappointed people need a better understanding of how prayer does and does not work.

Many people, when they don’t have their prayers answered, just shrug their shoulders and say “It was not God’s will” or “That person did not have enough faith”, or “That person is not good enough”, but I am not prepared to do that. I try to learn from the experiences, and the answer I get sometimes surprises me, and other people do not accept it. This can be harder to deal with than just shrugging your shoulders.

One reason that prayers are not answered is that that God has given people freedom, so he will not force them to do things against their will. The Holy Spirit will often put ideas in the minds of evil people, and they will sometimes do what he suggested, because they like his ideas, especially if it is good for them. The Holy Spirit is quite happy to work with this constraint and he is smart enough to get God’s will done despite it.

We can be confident God will achieve his long-term goals, but he does not manipulate and control all human activities. This means that our prayers will only be fulfilled, if they line up with what the Holy Spirit can achieve.

Our prayers are more effective in situations where we have authority. The Holy Spirit better able to intercede on behalf of people who have given us authority in their lives than in the lives of political leaders of other nations that we have no involvement in.

If Christians are praying that God will do everything that is on their hearts and minds, without asking the Holy Spirit what God actually wants to do, then most of those prayers will not be answered. This will lead to disappointment.

We also need to be careful about false positives: things that appear to be linked, but are not, ie situations where what we prayed for happened, but this was not the result of our prayers. Consider a presidential election. Christians will be praying for their candidate: some will be praying for one and some will be praying for another. The group whose candidate gets in will assume that their prayers were answered, when actually their candidate would have won anyway, because God did not care who won, but allowed the people to choose.

When things that we have prayed for happen, we can’t just assume that it was the result of our prayers, because they may have happened anyway. We must be humble about the power of our prayers, because what we asked for may have been going to happen anyway, regardless of whether we had prayed or not.

That said, prayer can have a real effect, if we seek out what the Holy Spirit wants to do in situations where we have influence or authority.

The limitation is not our prayers, but the limitations that God has imposed on himself, by giving humans freedom and authority on earth. It is God that is constrained, not our prayers. The key is to ensure that we are praying according to his will and with alignment to the way that he has set the world up. If we understood, this much of the frustration would go.

Many Christians see currently see prayer as omnipotent, because they assume that God has detailed control over everything (the technical name is meticulous providence). Naturally, they are disappointed when they pray and nothing happens.

Pretending is not faith. However, honest and truth are much better.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Intercession and Authority (4) Deliverance

The one situation where God allows us to use force is dealing with demons. They often have to be forced out. However, God does not really have to force them, because unlike humans, demons are authority serving beings. They always obey the closest voice with authority. So they leave when a voice of authority commands them to go.

We have authority to command demons to leave in the name of Jesus and they must obey.

But even here, there is a catch. If the person whom the demon is harassing has given it permission to be in their life (often unwittingly) and that person does not acknowledge the authority of the person praying, then the demon may say, “I acknowledge the authority of the person giving me permission to be here” and choose to stay. Or it may leave temporarily, and return promptly with other demons that are more evil. One reason that demons sometimes fail to leave is that the person in need does not submit to the authority person praying.

The situation with the Sons of Sceva is illustrative (Eph 17:13-15). The demon recognised the authority of Jesus, and the authority of Paul, but they did not acknowledge the authority of the Sons of Sceva, even though they used Jesus name, and trusted in his power. When praying for deliverance from demons, the authority of Jesus and the authority of the person praying are both essential. The person praying gains authority when the person in need submits to them for help. Many of the people in Ephesus had submitted to Paul, so he had authority to cast demons of their lives.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Intercession and Authority (3) Released by Submission

Authority works the other way too. If I submit to a person or organisation, then I give them authority over my life. For example, if I submit to a government by voting in and election or asking them to provide services, I am giving that government authority over me. They have usually already claimed authority over me, but my submission authenticates their authority.

Likewise, when I submit to the elders or pastors of a church, I am giving them authority over me. They might already claim that God has already given them authority over me, but that is not right, because in the Kingdom of God, authority comes from the bottom up through submission, not by being imposed from the top down. Anyway, if I submit to the pastor and elders claiming authority over me, I am authenticating their authority.

When we submit to the leaders of an organisation, religious or political, we give them authority in lives, which also gives any spiritual powers that dominate them authority in our lives. By submitting to a government (local or central) I give the spiritual powers that work through it access to my life. Likewise, by submitting to the pastor or elders of a church, I give any spirits that have an influence in their lives access into mine.

We should be careful about how we submit in the workplace by being clear that we are only submitting on work-related issues, but not spiritual ones. In our prayers, we should declare to any spiritual power that controls our employer, that we have not given them authority in our lives.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Intercession and Authority (2) Letting the Holy Spirit Speak

Every citizen has a right to ask for an appointment with their king, president or prime minister. They have the right to speak to them. Therefore, I can give the Holy Spirit authority to speak to my king, president or prime minister on my behalf, ie prophets and intercessors can give the Holy Spirit permission to their president or prime minister on their behalf. They can tell the Holy Spirit what they want him to say. He will speak it, if the words are from God. So, the Holy Spirit can speak to kings, presidents or prime ministers, even if the does not have authority to change their behaviour.

I am free to speak to any person I meet. Therefore, I can give the Holy Spirit authority to speak to any person that I mee on my behalf. We should ask the Father what he wants to say to the people we encounter and give the Holy Spirit to speak those words to the person.

Of course, a king, a president, a prime minister and the person I meet on the street are free to ignore the voice of the Spirit, and they often do.

Authority comes through submission. We have authority over people who have submitted to us, as and elder, or by asking for prayer or seeking our wisdom and advice.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Intercession and Authority (1)

Authority works both ways. We need to understand the authority that we have in Jesus, but we must also understand the limits of authority, because people and organisations that have taken it, or been given authority on earth by people submitting to them.

Authority is more important than numbers for effective prayer. Here is another important principle.

We can only give God permission to act on earth
in situations where we have authority
Every Christian has different levels of authority in various spheres of activity. This affects their authority in prayer.

Christian parents have authority in their family, so they can give God permission to work in their family. Employers have authority over in their business, so they can give God authority to work there. Managers have authority over their staff, so they can give God authority to work in their lives. A king has authority in his a kingdom, so he can give God permission to work in his kingdom. Elders have authority over people in their care, so they can give God authority to act in their lives.

When people ask us to pray for them, they are giving us authority in their lives. This gives us authority to speak to God on their behalf. Hannah had submitted to Eli, so he had authority to agree with her prayers. If she had not submitted to him, his agreement may not have meant anything.

Two or three people with earthly authority over a situation will be more effective than hundreds who have no authority. This is a reason why Christians should take up positions of authority that are offered to them. Being given authority in the world gives a Christian wider and broader authority in prayer.

Much of the prayer for cities and nations is wasted, because the people who are praying do not have much authority over the political systems they are praying for. If the rulers of a city are not Christians, they are by default, continuously giving the forces of evil authority to act in their city or nation. Christians can bind these political-spirits and government-spirits and command them to leave the city, but they do not need to depart, if they have been invited to be there by leaders of the city, because the leaders have more authority in the city than the people praying.

Christians should be careful about submitting to political authorities, because when we submit to them, we are vulnerable to the political-spirits that control them. If we are standing to together in unity with other Christians, that may not be a problem, but if we are isolated from spiritual support, we might come under attack. (From Prayer and Authority).

Intercession is only effective in situations where we have authority on earth. Being seated at the right hand of God, in Jesus, does not give us the ability to make people do things that they do not want to do. If it did, Christians would already control the world. Our prayers will not be effective for people whom we do not have authority over, because they have more authority in their lives than we do. Intercessors cannot change the behaviour of a king, president or prime minister unless that king, president or prime minister has submitted to them.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Nation-State

Lew Rockwell describes the recent origin of the nation-state.

It is useful to back up just a bit to remember that the nation-state as we know is a modern invention, and not an essential feature of society. In many ways, it is, as Bastiat said, nothing but an artifice that permits some to live at others’ expense. He was of course speaking of the modern state, particularly that of nineteenth-century France, and all that he wrote applies in our time as well.

But states were not always structured as we know them today. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the late Middle Ages, societies in Europe were governed not by bureaucrats, elected councils, regulations, or any kind of permanent structural apparatus of coercion and compulsion, but by competing cells of authority that were woven together not by ideology, but by separate function. The merchant class managed its affairs, the church had its purview and courts, the international traders developed their code, feudal lords were masters of their domain, free cities managed themselves, the family was largely autonomous, and the state, such as it was, consisted of extended families and lines of rulers who dared not transgress their traditional authority.

Every institution was supremely jealous of its power and authority. The emergence of liberty from feudalism occurred not because any institution brought it about but because they all stayed within their realms, cooperating where necessary but also competing for the loyalty of the public. All the institutions we associate with civilization—universities, stock markets, charities, global trade, scientific establishments, vocational schools, courts of law—were born or recaptured from the ruins of the ancient world in these supposed dark ages without nation-states.

Voltaire once wrote of how kings would conduct their wars, raising their own money and employing their own soldiers, always acquiring or losing territory and usually up to no good. But for the most part, though they dominate the history books, their activities had little or no impact on the people. It was during this time, historian Ralph Raico reminds us, that the process of accumulating capital began and the division of labor began to expand — two features that are essential to rising population and prosperity.

The nation-state as we know it — defined by a fixed governing class that enjoys the legal monopoly on the right to use aggressive force against person and property and holds a status that is higher in authority than any other institution — was a development of the breakup of Christendom and the wars of the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century. As competitive sources of authority weakened, the state as an entity separate from its ruler came to be strengthened and consolidated, sometimes in opposition to competing authority centers and sometimes in cooperation with them.



Thursday, January 23, 2020

Statism the Church

Scot McKnight has a good post on Statism the Church. He has uncovered a serious problem. I believe that he has hit the nail on the head, when he said,

The church, John Locke once said, is more likely to be influenced by the government than the government by the church. This could be called “Locke’s trap.”
America’s dominant narrative today is statism, the theory that the state ought to rule and the state can solve our problems.
The political narrative of today makes for a mesmerizing story: there are problems, we are strung along for two years or more with potential winning or losing, and then the Vote Day comes and the story’s next chapter starts. We may even give the story’s centrality a break for a year or so and then we start up all over again. But make no mistake, the American story is increasingly statism. We are in Locke’s trap. More significantly, statism entails an inherent belief, either explicit or implicit, in the state. It is a belief that solutions to our biggest problems are found in the state and the Christian’s responsibility from the Left or the Right is to get involved and acquire political power. Statism as I am using it here is the idol of making a human the world’s true ruler. Statism exalts humans and human plans and voting. Statism centers its faith in the future on who rules in D.C.. Statism makes government a god. Statism is a secular eschatology and soteriology. No one, of course, says this or even admits it but our lives betray our words.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Joseph/Daniel Calling (3) Authority Issues

The aspiration for a Daniel/Joseph type ministry is based on the assumption that Christians can contribute to the advance of the Kingdom of God by influencing political leaders and emperors. That is a misunderstanding. The Kingdom of God will come to fulness when human emperors, kingdoms and political powers collapse and shrink away. The Kingdom of God is established on the edge of society, so it will be ready to expand when the kingdoms of the world shake and fall. Political coercion cannot be used to establish a kingdom based on love and service.

God needs prophets to challenge and confront kings and political leaders. These prophets will sometimes rise up within the bureaucracy that serves the political system, as Daniel did. However, they will need to be marked by absolute allegiance to God and his word. Their role is not to comfort the king and help him to use his power better. Better policies will not produce the kingdom. Gods Kingdom cannot be built by coercive power. Their role is to expose the failures and follies of political power.

A key issue is authority. When a Christian has a relationship with a political leader, the leader holds all the authority. To be accepted, the Christians has to submit to them and to their authority. The political leader does not have to submit to the Christian or recognise their authority. They can pick and choose from the wisdom offered by the Christian, so they remain in control. Unfortunately submitting to the political leaders, leaves the Christian vulnerable to spiritual forces that control and manipulate them. Seeking access to political power can have a high spiritual cost.

Kings, Presidents or Prime Ministers are aware that their popularity is fragile, so they prefer to be surrounded by people who will boost their ego’s. Therefore, to get close to them, Christians will have to engage in flattery, but unfortunately, this reduces their ability to influence them. Too much flattery by Christians can make a King, President or Prime Minster Dangerous.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Joseph/Daniel (2) Daniel

Daniel’s situation was not much better than Joseph's. Nebuchadnezzar recognised Daniel’s wisdom and put him in charge of the province of Babylon after he interpreted his dream. However, Nebuchadnezzar did not change and become gentle, humble and kind. Instead, he built a statue of himself and made the people worship it. Daniel’s friends refused to worship the statue, because they preferred to honour God, but they had to obey Nebuchadnezzar in everything else. They had to use their God-given wisdom to implement Nebuchadnezzar’s plans and purposes. If they had refused to carry out his instructions, they would have been thrown out their roles.

When Nebuchadnezzar became too big for his boots and God spoke to him in a dream, Daniel was able to hell him what the dream meant, without a description of the dream. When he humbled himself, he recognised that God is right and just, but there is no evidence that he switched to doing what is right and good. Nebuchadnezzar continued to be a ruthless and powerful dictator.

When Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar held a banquet, Daniel was able to read the writing on the wall and warn him what would happen. However, Belshazzar did not repent and turn back to God.

When Darius the Mede invaded Babylon, Daniel’s wisdom was recognised and he was re-appointed to a position of authority. After he came out of the lion’s den, Darius acknowledged the greatness of Daniel’s god, and decreed that all the people of his kingdom must acknowledge Daniel’s god (Dan 6:26) but that did not mean they should stop worshipping their other God. They just added another god to their pantheon of gods. And they didn’t stop giving their allegiance to the emperor who controlled their kingdom.

Daniel prospered during the reigns of Darius the Mede and his successor Cyrus the Persian. Nevertheless, he continued to be a slave. God had given Daniel wisdom, but he had to use it to advance the plans of pagan emperors.

When Cyrus became king over the empire, he ordered that a temple be built in Jerusalem. Daniel may have had a role in this, but we must be careful about overstating the significance of the decision. The decree to rebuild the temple was significant for Israel, but that was what Emperors did in those days. They wanted to keep all the local gods in their empire happy, and one of the best ways to do that was to build a temple for each one. Cyrus was not choosing to follow Yahweh, he was just doing what emperors did to keep themselves on the right side of the gods they might have offended during their conquests.

So Daniel would have had a tough life working for a series of pagan emperors. He had to use the wisdom that God had given to support their plans and goals. If Daniel refused to do that, he would have lost his position.

Daniels most valuable contribution was the apocalyptic visions, prayers and prophecies recorded in Daniel 7-12. He prophesied the ministry of Jesus (Dan 9). He also described how the Kingdom God would come to fulness and how the governments of the world would collapse and disappear and be replaced by the government of God

The Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favour of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom... But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (Dan 7:22, 27-27).
This is a wonderful promise. Maybe Daniel received his visions, because he was tormented by having a role where he had to use God’s gift of wisdom to prop up pagan emperors. This struggle probably caused him to press into God and ask why these rulers were so strong, when God was the creator of the universe. The pressure of serving at the heart of the empire forced Daniel into intense prayer that produced important insights into the workings of the empire. The tension of his role gave him the tenacity to receive a clear vision and promise from God.

Daniel’s prophecies were an amazing achievement for a person who was forced to serve a pagan king, but he is not a role model for Christians to follow.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Joseph/Daniel Calling (1) Joseph

Many Christians want to be Josephs or Daniels gaining access to political leaders to gain influence over them. They believe that by getting the ear of politicians, they will be able to influence political power in the direction that God wants it to go. The problem with this desire to influence political power is the nature of the relationship.

Joseph
Joseph was a slave, and he continued to be a slave of Pharaoh, even though the was his second command. Pharaoh took advantage of Joseph’s dream interpretation skills, but he used them for his own benefit. He could have told the people to save grain during the good years, so they would be safe during the famine years, but Pharaoh did not pass on the knowledge that he learned from Joseph’s interpretation on to his people. Instead, he bought up grain himself during the good years, when it was cheap. And then he sold it during the famine years when grain was scarce and expensive. By buying at the bottom, and selling at the top of the market, Pharaoh made enormous profits at the expense of his people.

Worse still, when the people ran out of money, Pharaoh took their land in exchange for grain. During the famine years, land was nearly worthless, whereas grain was valuable. Pharaoh gained ownership of all the land in Egypt. The people fell from being independent farmers to become tenant farmers reliant on Pharaoh. You could say that Pharaoh ripped his people off when he had a responsibility to care for them.

God used Joseph to provide food for his family during the famine. He used this situation to get Jacob and his family to Egypt. But Joseph was not able to change Pharaoh’s behaviour. He continued to be a wicked, and self-centred dictator, who enslaved his people. If Joseph had refused to implement Pharaoh’s wishes, he would have been turfed out of power, just like his predecessors who could not interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.

Therefore, Joseph is not really a good role-model for Christians wanting to influence political leaders. Rather he is an example of the danger of working with political power. Political influence always comes with a cost, and it usually overwhelms.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Big Four – Social Issues

With an election coming up this year, Christians in New Zealand are fighting against political change that affects four social issues.

  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Marijuana
  • LGBQT issues
This focus is a mistake and a distraction.
  • Salvation by law does not work. Christians do not believe in it, so it does not make sense that they are trying to use political power to bring social change.

  • The church has the gospel and the Holy Spirit. These together are far more effective for bringing social church.

  • The horse has bolted. Society has already decided these issues, and it is going the other way.

  • If the church persists on these issues, there will be a reaction. A sword of persecution will come against leaders of churches who push hard issues. This will happen quicker than expected.

  • These issues are suckering the church into supporting right-wing political parties. They will use these voters to get power, but will give very little back. Political power is a trap for the church.

God does not care about these issues as much as we do. He is sad when people reject his love, but he is not surprised when they sin. The wedge issues that concern Christians so much are normal in societies that have turned away from God. The solution is proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

In the New Testament, Jesus did not challenge the religious and political powers bring in laws to eliminate abortion, euthanasia and crucifixion. Instead, he went around proclaiming the good news and demonstrating God’s love by healing the sick and casting out demons.
When dealing with sin, he focussed on:

  • Unrighteous wealth (Luke 6:24-25; 16:13).
  • Religious leaders colluding with political power (Mark 3:6; Luke 23:2: John 19:12).
  • Imposing legal burdens on people to solve problems without doing anything about the underlying causes (Matt 23:2-4).

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Possible Future?

1. Season of Urgency
The season is urgent. The spiritual climate of a nation can decline much faster than most Christians leaders realise. Unless something dramatic happens, the spiritual decline in the US will accelerate. Revival and restoration are never automatic. They require a change of heart and change of behaviour of the church and its leaders. There are few signs that this will occur. History has plenty of examples of places in the world where a strong church has disappeared, because people and church leaders did not listen to the Spirit and heed his call to change. The expected revival will not come, unless the church agrees to do things God's way.

2. Truth falls to the Ground
Lying has become a respectable strategy for political leaders on all sides of the political spectrum. When the leaders of a nation lie to their people, and the people welcome the lies, then foolishness and folly follows. Stirring up trouble and disagreement gets easy. When truth fails, power triumphs.

3. Love of War
Because faith in military power is so deeply entrenched in America, if antagonisms intensify, there is a risk that people will seek to resolve their disagreements by military power (as they did in 1776 and 1865). The outcome could be ugly.

4. No Empire
God does not need a union of states, or powerful nations to accomplish his purposes. The does not need a Christian empire to enforce his will in the world. He does not need a powerful Christian nation to restrain evil. He gave his law for that purpose, and it is sufficient for the task (1 Tim 1:7).

God is not interested in Christians seizing political power. He is focused on his Kingdom, which comes to reality, as people freely submit their authority to Jesus and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God cannot be established by political power. It must not be confused with a Christian nation.

5. Political Empire
America might divide and fight along religious/cultural/political lines, as the divided nation flies apart. However, faith in political power is so strong in the United States, it is more likely that a powerful political leader will be given the autocratic power to hold together the divided nation. To ensure the unity of the United States, people would welcome a leader with absolute power. He would use military force to unite the nations and put down those who are rebelling and breaking away.

6. Persecution
If the prophets challenge these developments, the church will almost certainly be hated by people with power. To survive and grow, it will need to become politically invisible.

  • No big buildings/facilities
  • No public worship meetings
  • No big-name pastor-leaders.
Highly visible people and activities make the church easy to track down and attack.
The church must be invisible to political and military leaders, and highly visible to people open to the gospel. I describe how this can be done in Being Church Where We Live.

7. Political and Social Collapse
If a political-military dictator gets control of the nation, he will eventually fail and his power will collapse. The outcome will be worse than the disaster that he was trying to prevent.

8. Opportunity for the Kingdom
A collapse of political power will be a season when God can bring his Kingdom to fullness. Those who have stayed loyal to Jesus (many will fall away) will be prepared for this opportunity. They will have turned their invisible churches into Kingdom Communities that can provide all the services that the government has failed to deliver. The Kingdom Communities will expand and multiply rapidly to bring God’s salvation and kingdom to a broken world.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Nation Divided?

Many Christians want to make America great against, but God is not interested in that. He wants his Kingdom to be glorious, and for that to happen, the glory of America will have to shrink and disappear. Unfortunately, God will not have to do much to make that happen. Americans will probably do that for themselves.

If the numbers of people following Jesus continues declining, and the church corrupts itself by compromising with political power, the constraints on the spiritual powers of evil will be released. Evil will increase, disasters will be more frequent and pervasive, and the nation’s troubles will multiply.

  • The United States is disrupted by religious wars.
  • The United States is torn apart by cultural wars.
  • The United States is divided by political wars.
  • The United States is split by legal wars.

Widespread troubles will expose the depth of the division. If people are divided by hate, some will get out their guns.

No presidential candidate put up by either party will be able to unite the country. Instead, they will divide the nation further.

The only thing that can unite the country is the people’s love of war, so presidents will continue to lead their nation into many pointless and destructive wars all over the world in an attempt to it together.

Power fills a vacuum. If the situation gets desperate, a ruthless and powerful leader could emerge. He might take control and unite the nation by force, trampling on those who oppose him and stamping out all opposition. The nation that loved freedom might get a dictator, but they would welcome the order that he brings.

Followers of Jesus who understand the times should joint together in small communities where they can support each other and protect each during the hard times. By standing together, they will remain firm, while others are being shaken. They should be prepared for distress. and equipped for victory.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Rod Dreher Benedict Option

Rod Dreher sums up the situation this way.

We Christians in the West are facing our own thousand-year flood...
The storm clouds have been gathering for decades, but most of us believers have operated under the illusion that they would blow over the breakdown of the natural family, the loss of traditional moral values, and the fragmenting of communities—we were troubled by these developments but believed they were reversible and didn’t reflect anything fundamentally wrong with our approach to faith. Our religious leaders told us that strengthening the levees of law and politics would keep the flood of secularism at bay. The sense one had was: There’s nothing here that can’t be fixed by continuing to do what Christians have been doing for decades—especially voting for Republicans.

Today we can see that we’ve lost on every front and that the swift and relentless currents of secularism have overwhelmed our flimsy barriers. Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government, and the culture has turned powerfully against traditional Christians. We tell ourselves that these developments have been imposed by a liberal elite, because we find the truth intolerable: The American people, either actively or passively, approve (p.9).

The solution begins in communities.
The fate of religion in America is inextricably tied to the fate of the family, and the fate of the family is tied to the fate of the community... For decades conservative Christians have behaved as if the primary threats to the integrity of families and communities could be effectively addressed through politics. That illusion is now destroyed. If there is going to be authentic renewal, it will have to happen in families and local church communities (p.123).


Saturday, January 11, 2020

US Church and Political Power

Political power is dangerous for the church.

  • During the 1960s and 70s, Christians felt declining influence on their society. The Supreme Court was making changes that they did not. The judicial decision emerged out of the 1960s moral revolution.

  • The Republican Party needed the evangelical vote to win power at the federal level, especially the presidency. Conservative Christians were essential for the election of Reagan and the Bushes.

  • The Republican Party used wedge issues (like abortion, gay rights, euthanasia, death penalty) to bring evangelical voters over to their side, although they were not serious about doing anything about them. (Trump has actually done stuff for them, unlike Reagan and the Bushes).

  • Evangelicals sold out their integrity to gain power. They gave the Republican party their loyalty in return for some scraps of political power. The moral/social decline has continued unabated, because the underlying cultural changes have had a much greater influence.

  • The wedge issues were crucial to these Christians, because believed that they bring the wrath of God on the nation, and it will lose God’s blessing. This is not true. Judging by Jesus’ teaching, God cares more about unrighteous wealth and hypocritical religion that puts impossible legal burdens on people more than he does about the wedge issues.

  • Appointing conservative judges pleases conservative politicians but is irrelevant to Christian who believe that salvation by law does not work, because only God can change hearts.

  • Political power became a trap for the church. To maintain their grip on power, the church has had to compromise its moral standards and support a man who is immoral, by the church’s standards.

  • The church’s moral compromise for the sake of political power undermines the gospel, because people’s trust in the integrity of the church is weakened.

  • Like Samson and the Philistines, the political church and the conservative political powers will eventually undermine and destroy each other.


Friday, January 10, 2020

Doctrine of Creation

William Jennings says,

A Christian doctrine of creation should orientate us towards thinking about
  • place
  • habitation
  • where we live and what we make.
Instead of us obsessing over questions of:
  • origins
  • the relationship of theology and science
  • evolutionary theoreticals.
Thinking about these matters has drawn the doctrine of creation into a deep hole, out of which it has not emerged in the last forty years.

The church knows how to think about time, but it does not what to think about place?

I don’t just live in a house and I don’t just go to a church. I live in a place. We need to start thinking about what it means to engage with a place.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Luther and Gospel

Martin Luther got the gospel right (salvation by faith), but he was wrong about the Mosaic law and Jews (this is one reason why Nazism was able to emerge in Germany, where Luther’s influence was strong).

Luther was not fighting against a pagan culture. He was preaching to a culture where everyone believed in God and knew that Jesus was the son of God. People did not need to be rescued from a heathen world. They needed to be rescued from a church that was robbing them of their wealth in the name of Jesus by teaching them that forgiveness could be bought with money. That was the huge distortion of the gospel, so Luther tried to correct it.

Unfortunately, Luther aligned the Roman church that he opposed with the Mosaic law, so he attacked the Jewish law in order to undermine the salvation by works being offered by the corrupt Roman church. This was wrong. The Mosaic law was not salvation by works, as that could never work. If God demanded that, he was giving a system that would fail and need to be replaced by something better. Why would he do that? God does not do Plan B.

The Exodus was not a reward for the good works of the Israelites. God rescued them before he gave them the law. This was receive-do, like the gospel, not do-receive as Luther claimed.

The law was not salvation by works, as that would have been a waste of time. God gave the law for a different purpose. His aim was to equip the people whom he had called and rescued/saved:

  • Spiritual protection from the spiritual powers of evil (via the tabernacle sacrifices and the Levitical laws).

  • A way to live close together in close proximity in their new land in relative peace and harmony.

The law was not a way of attaining salvation. The Mosaic law was given to keep the people who had already been saved safe from evil and harm from each other and the surrounding nations.

In the passages that Luther drew on in Romans and Galatians, Paul was not critiquing salvation by works/law, he was opposing ethnic-based religion, where people got into God’s family by being part of an ethnic group. Circumcision and the food laws were cultural markers that distinguished Jews from the world (which was important for them, but not for salvation). Paul was criticising reliance on ethnicity for being part of the people of God.

Paul challenged the idea that Gentiles followers of Jesus had to become Jews by being circumcised to truly join God’s family. He explained that this was wrong because through Jesus, God had opened up his salvation to the rest of the world.

The law was not a system of salvation by works that had become redundant. It was a gift to the Jews that they were supposed to share with the nations when they saw how good it was (Deut 40). The world needed spiritual protection too. The people of the world also needed laws that would enable them to live in harmony. God’s law must be the best option available.

The Jews were supposed to teach the world how to do these things by living them out in practice. The people of the world would see how effective the law was and want to copy it. Paul criticised the Jews for their failure to complete this task (Rom 2:17-24).

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Empty Creation

For this is what the Lord says—
he who created the heavens,
he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18).
God did not create the universe and leave it uninhabited for millions of years,
as the scientists suggest. He would have created it as a going concern,
in which case it would look like it had already existed, when it was created.

When talking about the age of the universe, scientists are not really talking about time, but the amount of change that has occurred. By assuming that change occurs through the life of the universe, at the same time as it does now, they can express the degree of change that has occurred, in terms of time.

By rolling back the cause and effect of the changes they observe, they can go track to what appears to be a beginning. That massive amount of change that has occurred in our universe, needs a huge amount of time.

To take a simple example, suppose scientists observe a universe that seems to be expanding over time, from left to right on the diagram. They can only observe the position it has got to on the far right. By rolling back cause an effect, they arrive at a conclusion that the universe must have begun at the point on the left, many millions of years ago, marked by the star, representing a big bang.

However, if God is capable of creating a universe, then he is capable of creating a universe as a going concern, it partly expanded and continuing to expand. He may have created it at the point in time marked by the black line in the diagram. If scientists were to examine the universe, just after God had created it, they would observe that it was expanding. By rolling back the expansion pattern, it would seem that it had come into existence at the point marked by the star, although God had only created it at the point marked by the black line.

Another example.

If God created grass for the first time,
he would have had to create soil for it to grow in.
The created soil would have humus in it, which if it were examined, it would seem to have decomposed plant grass, even though grass had not existed before.

If God can create a universe, he is capable of creating decomposed plant material. He would do that to provide soil for grass to grow in and begin its life cycle.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

2020

Many people, secular and Christian, are making their predictions for 2020.

Maybe it is my age, but I don’t expect 2020 to be much different from 2019. For some people, depending on their circumstances, life will be better. For others, struck by tragedy, life will be much worse. For most people, life will carry on the same, unless they making radical changes.

Things usually don’t change that much from year to year. A blanket prediction that 2020 will be better than 2019 is unfair, because for some, life will be worse.

God does not change. The Holy Spirit is attempting to do the stuff that he has always has done. God does not wake up on the morning of 2020 and say, “I will do something different to surprise people”. What changes is how people respond to his activity and allow him to do more on earth.

If things on earth change, it is because people have changed, by moving towards God and his plan, or moving away. God is always omnipotent, but he has given authority on earth to the people that he created. So, if things have changed, his people must have changed by removing blockages and following him more intently.

Rather than trying to work out what the new decade will bring, I take a much longer-term perspective. I am interested in how the times and seasons, and epochal events that mark of God’s plan for history on earth.

The seasons change when God’s purpose for a season is complete. The Exodus occurred when the sins of the Amorites (Gen 15:16) were filled up (they had had sufficient time and mercy to confirm their path) and the Israelites in their Egyptian captivity (Exodus 2:24-25) cried out to God for help (they had changed) and Moses was ready (the right person was in place). The exile in Babylon ended when the 70 years that Jeremiah (Jer 29:10) had warned that they deserved were finished (the consequence of their actions were complete).

The season that we are currently living through is the Times of the Gentiles, because during this season the church is incomplete, as most of the Jews have not come to faith in him. The epochal events that mark the end of this season are a time of distress and the calling of the Jews (what Paul called the fulness of the Jews).

I believe that the world is moving toward a transition to the next seasons now. People who are alert should be looking for the signs that I am right (or wrong). The first signs occurred in about 1978.

Understanding the transition to the next season in God’s plan is much more important than thinking about the significance of the next decade. If I am correct, this is not a time for gloom and doom, but a time for excitement and preparedness, because the next season in God plan is the time of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

When I ask God of a word for the season, I get the same word that I have been getting for 30 years. God’s people should be getting ready, so they can stand firm together and not be swept away, during a time when everything else is being shaken. They should be prepared for distress but equipped for victory.