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.