Thursday, January 14, 2021

Ministry of Intercession

I am beginning to wonder if we have got the ministry of the intercessor right. In the last century, thousands of Christians have taken up this role (maybe millions), but I am not sure that we have seen the return on the effort that we would expect.

My problem is that this ministry does not exist in the New Testament. There was plenty of prayer and intercession, but no one who devoted themselves full-time to this role. The only full-time intercessor in the New Testament is Jesus following the ascension. He stands beside the Father interceding for us (Heb 7:25).

The people described in the New Testament were active in prayer and intercession, but it was part of their broader calling. Jesus often withdrew to pray. He did this to refresh his spirit and to seek his father’s will so he would know what he should do during his encounters with people in the busy days that would follow. His times of deep intercession were balanced by periods of intense activity healing the sick, casting out demons, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.

Judging by Paul’s letters, he also engaged in intense intercession (Eph 1:15-23; 3:16-21) but that was only a small part of his ministry. He was intensely involved in apostolic activity, preaching the gospel, discipling new believers, training leaders, writing letters. His intercession sustained his activities, rather than being the focus of his ministry.

I am coming to believe that intercession that is not balanced with active ministry can lose its way. The massive number of people who felt called to intercession and the huge increase in intercession has not brought the fruit that would have been expected if God was fully in it. Despite the highly-dedicated efforts of the intercessors, the church in the West has mostly gone downhill over the last century.

I suspect that one reason for this lack of effectiveness is the failure of intercessors to understand how authority functions, and their lack of it. The problem is that God has given all people freedom, so he will not force people to things that they don’t want to do. He will send angels and the Holy Spirit to put thoughts in their minds and he can constrain evil spirits that are manipulating them, but he will not force them to do what they do not want to do, no matter how much intercessors and are praying that they will.

The reality is that it is very difficult to bring real change in human behaviour from a prayer closet. Real personal change comes through encounters with other people demonstrating love and speaking the truth.

Political leaders have to be stubborn people, so it is almost impossible to change their behaviour by prayer alone, because God cannot force them to do things that they do not want to do. In a democracy, real political change can only come if many people modify their behaviour, so the prayer closet becomes even less effective, if not supported by other activity.

Real changes in behaviour towards God’s way will often come through:

Changing a community needs apostolic people leaving their homes and coming to live in the midst of the people they are interceding for so that they can see the life that is being offered.

Our intercession is far more effective in the lives of people who have submitted to our authority, because they are family members, or they have recognised the value of our gifts and calling. People who are actively exercising their evangelistic, pastoral, prophetic or apostolic gifts/calling will be more effective in intercession, than people who remain hidden in their prayer closet, because people have submitted to them have given real authority to their intercession for them.

The ministry of intercessor might be a refuge for introverts, but if they remain in their prayer closet away from people, their authority will be limited and the effectiveness of their prayers constrained.

Monday, January 11, 2021

America Prophetic Failure (3)

I can see five serious consequence of the failure of the prophecies that Donald Trump would win a second term as president of the United States.

  • Destruction of faith. People who believed that God said that Donald Trump would win the election will have had their faith in God shaken. Some of those who have been most strident in Trump’s support will be overwhelmed by disappointment and give up on God.

  • A large portion of the population will continue to be hostile to the “elected president” (Some will never trust an election again). Presidential power relies on widespread political support of the people to be effective (and trust in the election process). A large group who hate the president and his democratic party supporters will become an angry and divisive force in the nation. Their anger will be exacerbated by the way the president is being treated by the media and elected leaders. These people are not going to go away, even if Trump retires into obscurity. They will continue to be disgruntled and easily agitated because they believe God is on their side.

  • The widespread belief that the election was stolen will prevent the prophetic movement from being honest about their prophecies and admit they were wrong. They will claim that their prophecies were correct, but the spiritual powers of evil resisted them and prevented them from being fulfilled. Their refusal to admit their mistakes will severely undermine the credibility of the prophetic movement. Some Christians will never trust them again.

  • Many prophets will say that Trump lost the election because the Church did not pray hard enough (see prophetic blind spots). Dumping a guilt trip on the people to protect the reputation of the prophets is dangerous. Many Christians will already be struggling under disappointment. This underserved guilt will be the last nail in the coffin for some.

  • I presume that some church congregations will be badly split on this issue, which will weaken the church. Shepherds will need great wisdom.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

American Prophetic Failure (2) Political Faith

A big problem for the failure of the prophetic movement in the US is fascination with political power.

The American prophets failed to understand what a president can and can’t do. Some prophets supporting Donald Trump suggested that God would use him to transform the nation and release a revival that would sweep the world. They would say that their full trust was in God, but believed that if Trump was not elected for a second term, the nation would go to the dogs. Faith in political power is a serious blind spot for prophetic people

Unfortunately, a US president does not have that kind of power. In a federal system with a strict balance of power, between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, there are significant limits on what a president can achieve. Change is difficult to bring about without getting support from congress and state governments. So the idea that one man could transform the nation, even if he was a Cyrus, was unrealistic. The idea that a man who was, at best, a baby Christian, and at worst, was worldly and unteachable narcissist could advance the Kingdom of God was a bit naïve.

Without an understanding of the futility of political power, prophetic involvement in the political system will be on shaking ground. Hopes of gaining political influence is a dangerous temptation for God's people. Fascination with political power can prevent Christians from seeing what God is trying to do. They tend to get obsessed with getting the right people into power, because they fall for the deception that the next election is the most important in their nation’s history, which is a political lie, designed to enhance political power.

For many American Christians, political power has become an idol. God will not use and idol to advance his purposes. Faith in political power leads them to focus on changing the political leaders of the nation in the false hope that this will bring the Kingdom of God closer. Unfortunately, most efforts to bring political change usually lead to disappointment.

God does not work through political power. His Kingdom cannot be established by political power. Jesus never suggested that his kingdom could be advanced if the centurion who demonstrated faith when his servant was sick was appointed governor in Pilate’s place. He focussed on advancing his own kingdom.

The accumulation of political power amplifies the authority of government-spirits in the spiritual realm. This means that political power is actually an obstacle to God achieving his purposes. He prefers to work through thousands and thousands of small kingdom communities in local neighbourhoods, because that stretches the resources of the spiritual powers of evil to thin to be effective.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

American Prophetic Failure (1)

There are two major problems with the prophetic claims that God would intervene, despite the outcome of the election, to install Donald Trump as president for a second term.

The first problem is that American prophets have failed to understand what God can and can’t do. God is all-powerful, but when he created the earth, and humans in his image, he limited his sovereignty by giving them freedom. This means that he cannot make people do what they don’t want to do. God can constrain the evil spirits that harass people, and he can put thoughts into their minds to persuade them, but he cannot force them to act against their will.

Accomplishing his will is not as easy for God as many Christians assume. Even the people who have promised to serve him frequently choose to do their own thing and fail to obey him. More so, people who hate him or cannot trust him. If they know his will, they are quite likely to refuse to do it. God has the power to get his will done, but he has chosen not to use it because he wants humans to be free. God does accomplish his purposes, but it takes time. The Holy Spirit works out his plans by removing obstacles and putting the right people in place ready for when he wants to bring change. The process is often slowed because some of the people that he has called refuse to get on board.

It took thousands of years for him to get everything lined up so that it would be safe to send Jesus to earth, so it will take many years before he is able to achieve the great harvest of the earth that has been promised and establish the fulness of his Kingdom. God will eventually achieve his purposes, but he does it by working patiently and wisely through humans to achieve his objectives.

Some prophets have been saying that the outcome of the election is in God’s hand, not the hands of men. They have assumed that God can flip the election any way that the chooses. This is not true. God has given authority on earth to humans, so he cannot enforce changes that they do not want.

Adopting democracy places even greater limitation on what God can do.

In a monarchy, removing a king and replacing him with another is much easier. God can cause a king to become sick and die (Acts 12:23), or to be killed in a battle (1 Kings 22:34-35). This opens the way for a replacement king to be installed (the Holy Spirit can influence the process of appointment).

In contrast, democracy is a system designed to give humans control over who rules them. The Holy Spirit can make suggestions to people about how they should vote, but he cannot force them to vote for the person he wants to rule.

The result of an election will be determined by the people and not by God. He cannot destroy votes or create extra ones. He might be able to cause some voting papers to be lost, but that is not how he usually works. The outcome of an election will usually be determined by voters.

Teaching that God determines the outcome of an election is misleading. The only way to change to really change the rulers in a democracy is to preach the gospel effectively so that people’s hearts are changed, enabling them to be able to listen to the Spirit and vote according to his will.

God cannot just snap his fingers and miraculously flip the result of an election. If it were that easy to get his will done, the entire world would have come to faith in Jesus by now. That has not happened. Not because it is not God’s will, but because humans have used the freedom that he gave them to reject his will.

Changing the outcome of an election is not that easy for God, especially if some of the population hate him, and many who say that they love him do not know how to hear the voice of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has to persuade thousands of people who don’t know how to hear his voice to change the way that they will vote. People are usually stubborn about their political loyalties, so it would not be easy for him to persuade them to change their vote.

Many prophetic people have been saying that God determines the outcome of the election, not man. In a democratic system that is simply not true. The democratic process is actually set up in a way that makes it difficult for the Holy Spirit to have influence. It enables humans to choose their leader, and God will not force them to change their choices. Under democracy (rule of the people), humans determine the outcome of elections.

Some American prophets have claimed that God would intervene miraculously to install Donald Trump as president. By implying that God could do this if they prayed enough, the prophets have created a false hope that will lead to disappointment.

The prophets who declared that America would be swept by a red wave and that Donald Trump would get a second term as president are wrong because they were promising that God was not in a position to deliver, even if he wanted to (I am not certain that he cares about the outcome of the election as much as the American prophets do, but that is a story for another day). If they had said that God wanted Donald Trump to have a second term, this would have been better, because the outcome would be conditional on how people responded.

Unfortunately, numerous prophets went further than that and declared that his second term was certain. Their certainty gave people a false hope that has now produced massive disappointment, and probably loss of faith. Their failure to teach people what God can and cannot do is a serious mistake because it will undermine the faith of many Christians. Faith based on a false understanding of how God operates is bound to be disappointed. Serious disappointment in God will cause many people to turn away from him. That is sad because prophets are supposed to teach people how to deal with the troubles of life.

Prophets should be careful about confusing God’s desires with his intentions. They must not confuse what he wants to happen, with what will happen. They must be careful about declaring that outcomes which are conditional are certain. In a world where humans are free, very few events on earth are certain.

Modern prophets sometimes speak as if God has meticulous control over everything that happens on earth. That is a false doctrine. God has made humans free. This means that humans decide much of what happens on earth, not God.

The big mistake of the American prophets in this season was not hearing wrongly about the outcome of the election, although that was a serious mistake. Their big mistake was declaring the outcome was certain, despite the reality that God was not free to deliver it because he is unwilling to force humans to do things against their will.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Wrong Stuggle

While Christians are really stirred up about which of the two sleazy, corrupt and geriatric candidates gets to be president of the United States, they missed a far more important reality. The government-spirits (principalities and powers in the spiritual realms) that tightened their control over the nation over the last four years will maintain their stronghold on the nation for the next four. The powerful spirits of war, violence and power will continue to determine the fate of the nation, regardless of who is president, and a spirit of lies has dug in with them.

Era of Justice

I heard a prophetic person say that America is going into a new era of justice. The unspoken implication is that God will establish justice by giving Donald Trump another term as president.

When I heard this word that God is bringing justice to America, I thought of Amos 5:18-20 and the Jewish people who were longing for the Day of the Lord.

Woe to you who long
for the day of the LORD!
Why do you long for the day of the LORD?
That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
They assumed that God would rescue them from their troubles, because they were his special people. Unfortunately, the day of the Lord would turn out to be a terrible day that would bring even greater trouble for them. More is expected, from those who have been given more.

The American Christians longing for an era of justice don’t realise what they are asking for. They seem to assume that an era of justice would mean another term for Donald Trump with two terms for Mike Pence to follow and a return to the glory days when America ruled the world and the church ruled the nation.

They obviously do not know the Sermon on the Mount, or Mary’s prophecy, which explain that God’s justice is different what we often expect.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:51-53).

I suspect that an era of justice could be a terrible time for a nation that:

  • has used its military power to wreck nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen.
  • killed thousands of innocent civilians with its bombs, missiles and drones.
  • maintained alliances with dictators and corrupt rulers who are oppressing their people.
  • flooded the world with movies and videos that celebrate violence and sexual perversion.
  • used political and military power to obtain wealth.
  • has an education and entertainment industries that have spread atheism round the world.
  • that has frittered away more revivals than any nation in history.
If I lived in America, I would not be seeking an era of justice for my nation, I would be desperately crying for an era of mercy. But maybe the American prophets intuitively know, without understanding it, that the time for mercy has passed.

Prophets should be careful what they ask for.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

God's Sovereignty

Roger E Olson wrote,

I do not believe that God always gets his way or that everything that happens is according to a divine plan. Did God “plan” the fall of humanity into sin with all of its consequences? I think not. Did God permit it? I think so. Did God have a plan for it, should it happen? Yes. Is God in control of everything? No. Could God control everything? Yes. Is God sovereign? Yes. Does God’s sovereignty mean meticulous providence? No. Does God know the future comprehensively, infallibly, absolutely? I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. God is omnipotent and omniresourceful and perfectly wise. He can establish his kingdom no matter what creatures do; we cannot thwart God’s final, perfect plan for the end of all things.