Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jesus on Money (10) - Better Solution

Caring and sharing is the best solution to the problem of security. Resources that were previously tied up in personal security accounts were no longer needed, because individuals trusted the body of Christ instead. The gospel of the kingdom had transformed their life so much that they felt secure in the love of the Christians around them.

Modern Christians focus on Jesus teaching about treasure in heaven and feel uneasy. The reason is that we have missed the point. We focus on not worrying about tomorrow, and find it to hard. Jesus main point was that we have the kingdom. People with the kingdom do not need storehouses on earth. Instead, of storing money in case to provide for ourselves in a day of trouble, they save so they can help others in their day of trouble.

The Kingdom comes first. Obeying Jesus teaching about wealth is not practical in the modern world because we do not have the Kingdom. We are not “all together in the same place” (Acts 2:44). We still consider our property our own. We do not give to everyone who has need. We do not have the Kingdom, so of course we need insurance and superannuation and money in the bank. People without the kingdom need big purses.

The solution is to “Seek first the Kingdom of God”. When we get serious about the Kingdom, we will sell our property and move close to the other Christians that we are connected with. Once we are together in one place, we will be able to share and care for each other. When sharing and caring is normal, we will find that we do not need insurance or a nest egg in the bank. Treasure on earth will be irrelevant, because we have the treasure of the Kingdom.

This full series of posts can be read at Jesus on Money.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jesus on Money (9) - Unacceptable Teaching

Jesus teaching about security is not very acceptable in the modern world. Our security is based on treasure on earth. We have superannuation funds for our retirement. We have insurance to protect us against the risk of crisis. We keep a nest egg in the bank for use in an emergency. Not only are these things treasure on earth, but they tie up a resources that could be used for God’s work.

Jesus says that we should not need these things, but we would not feel secure without them. The reasons for this dilemma is that we have not understood what Jesus was saying. He gave the reason why we should not need treasure on earth for our security, why we should not be afraid.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32)
The reason that we should not be afraid is that God has given us the kingdom. The reason that we do not need treasure on earth is that God has given us the kingdom. The reason that we should not need insurance and superannuation is that God has given us the kingdom.

The early church had received the kingdom. The kingdom they received was manifested through giving and sharing.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had… much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32-33).
These Christians had said goodbye to their property. They had stopped referring to property they held as their own. They were one in unity and love. The Holy Sprit was present with them. Giving and sharing became normal. The result was “no needy persons among them”. They no longer needed life insurance or superannuation, because giving and sharing made them unnecessary.

Friday, January 29, 2010

House of Cards

I have just finished reading the House of Cards by William Cohen. This book is mostly the story of Bear Stearns. The subtitle title is apt: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street

Bear Stearns collapse during the financial crisis and was sold to JP Morgan by a Leveraged Buyout King called Timothy Geithner and a Junk Bond Dealer called Ben Benanke. The story of this collapse is really revealing.

Throughout its history, Bear Stearns was controlled by very powerful CEOs. In each case the CEO was extremely clever, very hard working and highly successful. The problem was that there success led to extreme arrogance.

The CEO of Bear Stearns could not be challenged by anyone close to him. The same applied to most department heads. Most were also clever, hard working, successful, and arrogant. They could not be challenged by those outside their fiefdoms.

Jimmy Cayne, the last dominant CEO, often did not understand what some of his department heads were doing. The result was that the people creating, selling and buying financial instruments based on subprime mortgages were unsupervised. This was a recipe for disaster.

I am currently reading a history of Goldman Sachs. I am only part way through, but during the seventies and eighties, when the firm grew very rapidly, there was a totally different culture, with much greater emphasis on team work. For much of this period, the firm was lead by two co-presidents working as a team called the "Two Johns".

John Weinberg (the son of Sidney Weinberg), and John C. Whitehead held the roles of co-senior partners from 1976 until 1984. Robert Rubin and Stephen Friedman were the Co-Senior Partners for most of the 1990s. I will have to read further to see if this team culture continued up to the present.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jesus on Money (8) - Security

The second reason that people store up wealth is to provide security for the future. We store wealth for a rainy day. We save money, so we can provide for ourselves, if we are sick. We fill a purse, so we can relax and take life easy when we reach the age of sixty-five. All these actions are done to take care of tomorrow. Jesus them out, when he told us to trust God for the future.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:34).
Storing wealth for security into the future is pointless, as no earthly store is safe. Corrupt bankers will steal it, or monetary inflation will slowly eat it away. Wealth can never provide security in an uncertain world.

Jesus did not pretend that the future will be free of problems. He knows that we will face trials, but he tell us to prepare by storing up treasures in heaven.
Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven… where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33).
True security comes from treasure in heaven.
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out (Luke 12:33).
The best way to shift wealth to heaven is to give to the poor.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jesus on Money (7) - Human Heart

Jesus wants understood the human heart.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34).
We tend to focus on the place where our treasure is kept. If our treasure is in the bank, our focus will be on the bank. Jesus does not want his people to be distracted, so we must store their treasure in heaven.

There are two reasons why people store up wealth. One reason that people store wealth is so they can sit back an enjoy life. The context of Jesus teaching about treasure is the parable of Rich Fool. His farms produced a great crop, so he built new barns to store his crop. He said to himself.
You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry (Luke 12:19).
Jesus called the rich man a fool, because the very day that he said these words he would die. Storing up wealth, so we can take life easy and party is not an option for God’s people. The word for “laid up” is also to describe hoarding. Jesus put this challenge another way when he said,
Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke18:15).
A Christian cannot have a good life by eating and drinking and being merry. We find peace by serving Jesus. We must be careful that greed for possessions does not distract us from serving him. Those who have entered into the spirit of greed might need to give away their possessions to break this spirit.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jesus on Money (6) - Owning Property

Many Christians respond to Jesus teaching by asking, “Can a Christian own property?” The New Testament answer is “No”. Christians cannot own property. The reason we cannot own property is that we have a king. When we commit to Jesus, all our property belongs to him. We cannot own property, because we and everything we hold belongs to him.

Many Christians ask a different question. “Do I have to sell everything they own?” This question does not make sense, because a Christian does not own anything. Everything they used we owned transferred to Jesus, when we surrendered to him. We cannot sell what we do not own.

A different question is more relevant. “Can a Christian hold property”. The answer is yes. We can manage Jesus property on his behalf. We can act as his steward. The key is a shift in attitude. We no longer own property, so we cannot “claim our possessions as our own”. They belong to Jesus, so we must use them as the Holy Spirit directs. That changes everything.

The Holy Spirit will tell some people to sell their property. He told Barnabas to sell his property (Acts 436-37. Barnabas obeyed and it opened up a wonderful ministry as an apostle to Asia Minor. I am sure he had no other regrets.

The Holy Spirit may tell other people to use their property for a particular purpose. He told some women to use their property to support Jesus.

Joanna the wife of Cuza… Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means (Luke 8:3).
These woman held onto their property as stewards, but the Holy Spirit prompted them to use it to support Jesus.

In the same way, The Holy Spirit told Joseph of Armathea to pay for Jesus to be buried (Matt 27:57-58).

The answer to every question about property is simple. Jesus owns it all. He may allow us to hold some of his property as stewards, but we cannot call our it own. Good stewards must use his property as the Holy Spirit directs. The answer to all questions about property is to obey the Holy Spirit.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jesus on Money (5) - Rich Young Ruler

One person who was unwilling to say goodbye to his wealth was the rich young rulers. He had asked Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life. When Jesus told him to keep the commandments, he said he had kept them all since he was a boy.

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property (Luke 18:22-23).
This man was very rich. The only way you could get rich in Jesus time was to collude with Herod or with the Romans, so the young man was lying when he said he had kept all the commandments. He was living on wealth that had been stolen from his owner.

The young man was a ruler. To retain this position, he would have collude with the violence of the Roman political and military system.

Riches and rulers go together. For example,Mary prophesied:
He has brought down rulers from their thrones….
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:54,55).
When rulers fall, the rich suffer seriously, because their riches come from their relationships with the rulers.

Mathew records that the young ruler owned much property. The word used for possession is “ktema”, which is not the word generally used for possessions in the New Testament (uparxis). I have wondered why Matthew used a different word for the rich young ruler. I found a possible answer in the Lexicon of Ardnt and Gingrich (B218). They quote a reference which uses this word to mean “acquire in reward for wickedness”.

The wealth that rich young ruler controlled was probably the fruit of wickedness. He could not retain the fruits of unrighteousness and follow Jesus. We must get rid of all wealth that is the fruit of unrighteousness behaviour, if we are serious about following Jesus.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jesus on Money (4) - Counting the Cost

Jesus warned his listeners to count the cost, before choosing to follow him. A king who goes into battle without working out if he has enough troops to win is stupid. He illustrated this choice with a reference to money and wealth.

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned (Luke 14:33-34)?
This is radical stuff. The cost we have to count is real. To be a disciple of Jesus we must give up all our possessions. The Greek work for “give up” is “apossetai”. It means “renounce” or “say goodbye”. Those who follow Jesus must say goodbye to all their possession. They might still be close by, but they no longer belong to the believer. They belong to Jesus, so the Holy Spirit can use them as he wills.

That changes our question. We should not ask, “Can I buy a new television?” Rather we should be asking the Holy Spirit different questions.
What do you want to do the money in the bank account that has my name on it.?

What do you want to do with the wealth that used to belong to me?
If we asked these questions, we might be surprised at what the Sprit tells us to do. If we don’t ask these questions, we will be like salt that has lost its flavour. If we are not willing to say goodbye to our possessions, we cannot expect to influence our culture.

Banking on Obama

Barack Obama has announced that he will pass legislation preventing banks from becoming “too big to fail”. There will be limits on their size and risk taking activities. Banks will prevented from owning hedge funds and other special purpose investment vehicles to remove risk from their balance sheets. These are good things, but it will not happen.

Christians should not count on the politicians to fix the banking system. Whenever the bankers and politicians get together, compromise follows right behind. The new legislations will be twisted to protect the banks. They will find ways to make any new laws work for their benefit.

The solution rests with ordinary people. If people withdrew their funds form banks that undertake risky behaviour and deposit their money in safer banks, at least some of the banks would be forced to change.

Power to the People
Depositors should also start asking banks what they will do with their term deposits. They should ask if the money will be loaned for a longer term than the term of the deposit. If the bank says yes, they should ask how the bank will repay their money when the term of the deposit has ended. The bank will say that it will obtain deposits from other people or borrow the money from other institutions. This kind of questioning will expose the dangers in what the banks are doing.

If enough people ask for a different service, an innovative bank will be able to get an advantage by providing that service. If consumers start enquiring about a bank that matches the terms of it loans with the terms of its deposits, a bank should emerge to provide that service. If that is what most depositors really want, then that bank should grow quickly. As more and more depositors choose this service, other banks will have to start providing it, so that they do not lose market share.

The power to change the banking system lies with depositors. If enough people demand a better service, banks will have to change their practices. All that is need is for one bank to provide an alternative service. Depositors can then use the power of their money to reward that bank and punish those that refuse to change. Power rests with those who own the money and the money is owned by the depositors, not the banks (From Bank Deposits and Loans).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Trijicon Gunsights

Our ministry of defence has decided to remove the Bible verses from Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights supplied by US manufacturer Trijicon's that are used by Kiwi soldiers. The Defence Forces spokesperson said that having Bible verses on its weapons makes it "uncomfortable".

I can understand the Defences Forces view. What I cannot understand is why Christians would think it is appropriate to put Bible verses on gunsights. How can this honour the gospel.

Jesus on Money (3) - Seek the Kingdom Means

Most modern Christians do not have to worry about what they will eat tomorrow. We tend to assume that Jesus was teaching means that people who seek God’s kingdom will prosper. That is not what he meant.

People who follow Jesus have a new King. What most Christians do not realise is that a king owns all the property within his Kingdom. He will assign some property to his followers, but they will only hold it at his favour. People who opposed the king would have their property confiscated with out compensation. The name of this practice is “eminent domain”.

When Christians decide to “seek the kingdom”, all their possessions become the property of their king. Giving a tenth of what they own is not an option. Everything they own now belongs to Jesus, and must be used as Jesus directs. This produced the change of thinking recorded in Acts 2 (cf Luke 12:22).

No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had (Acts 4:32).
This was not unusual behaviour, but the natural outworking of the Kingdom.

For modern Christians, seeking first the Kingdom means surrendering all our income and wealth to the Holy Spirit and using it as he directs. If he tells us to sell our property and give it away, that is what we must do. It no longer belongs to us, but to our king. If the Holy Spirit tells us to share our possessions, then we have not option. From reading Acts, it seems that the Holy Spirit likes telling people to share, so we should not be surprised if that is what he asks us to do.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jesus on Money (2) - Seek the Kingdom

Christians should have a different on wealth. We are not to worry about our life and basic things such as what to eat and drink.

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?.... O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them (Matt 6:25,31,32).
For most of Jesus listeners, the daily battle for survival was very real. Most of their day would be devoted to finding something to eat. Getting new clothing was a real and ongoing struggle. Jesus teaching was a totally radical outlook on life. How could they stopping worrying about food, when starvation was often only a few days away?

Jesus suggested a totally different approach to life.
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:33,34).
This message was very clear to Jesus listeners. Most were totally worried about what they would eat tomorrow, especially if they had taken time to listen to Jesus. The idea that they could stop worrying about tomorrow by focussing on the kingdom of God was totally radical.

The people who chose to follow Jesus in Acts 2 and 4 saw this become a reality.
There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:34)
This was not the result of gold dust falling from the sky.
They shared everything they had (Acts 4:32)
Radical sharing meant that believers did not have to worry about what they would eat to morrow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jesus on Money (1) - Woe to the Rich

Jesus had some strong words about money. Many Christians find his teaching hard to accept, but we cannot ignore it. In the next few posts I will look at some examples from his challenging teaching.

Woe to the Rich
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus set out his core teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Luke records the version that gave when he had descended to the plain after calling the twelve disciples. He covered money in this teaching.
Looking at his disciples, he said:

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied….
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep
(Luke 6:20,21,24,25).
This is fairly straightforward. Jesus had coming to turn the world upside down. Those who have plenty already will be disappointed. Mary had prophesied the same thing before Jesus was born.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:53).
Those who are poor will be satisfied and be made comfortable.

These prophecies will not be fulfilled by force through a revolution. They will be fulfilled voluntarily through giving and sharing. They were fulfilled by the early church, but they are not so often fulfilled so much in the modern world. This is a challenge. If the gospel is working effectively, the poor and hungry should be lifted up and be satisfied.

This full series of posts can be read at Jesus on Money.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tens and Hundreds

Something that has stood out to me in the television coverage coming out of Haiti is the large number of young people just wandering around. These are strong healthy young men. If they could get together and work in teams, I suspect that they could have a real impact in their communities, but they seem to be drifting aimlessly in the tide of events. This is what happens when the cohesion of a society breaks down at the lowest level.

As we move into a period of increased social and economic disruption, there is an urgent need for Tens and Hundreds to be re-established in our neighbourhoods, so that we can cope with the disaster that may come.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Consequences of the Ahab/Jeroboam Complex

The Ahab/Jeroboam Complex has serious consequences. They are evident in many churches.

1) Isolation
God was not with Ahab.

2) Spiritual drought

1 King 17:1
Vulnerability: Spiritual poverty.

3) Blown about like a reed
Swaying like a reed in the water. 1 Kings 14:15 Like sheep without a shepherd
1 Kings 22:17 cf. Eph 4:13,14
Vulnerability: Open to the Jezebel spirit (1 Kings 16.)

4) Illness
1 Kings 14:1; 13:6; 21:4; Rev 2:22
Vulnerability: Many sick in the church.

5) Depression, Suicidal
Rev 2:22,1 Kings 16:18; 21:4.
Vulnerability: Many pastors are depressed.

6) Failure
God began to reduce the size of Israel In those days.
2 Kings 10:32.
Vulnerability: Many churches are declining.

7) Died of Wounds
Ahab was defeated
1 Kings 22:35-37; 2 Kings 9:24; 8:28,29
He was routed. 2 Chron 13:12,15.
God executed judgement on house of Ahab 2 Chron 22:8.
Vulnerability: Many church leaders die of their wounds.

8) Humiliation
Blood licked by dogs
1 Kings 14:10,11; 16:4; 21:24; 22:38; 2 Kings 9:10,36
Vulnerability: Many Christians feel humiliated by the attitude of the world.

The reasons that the Jezebel spirit has gained such a stronghold in the church is that the Ahab spirit has opened the door. Before the Jezebel spirit can be expelled, we must repent of Ahab behaviour. Jezebel was the queen, but Ahab was King.

Elijah understood this problem. This is why he ran from Jezebel's threats. He knew that Ahab stood behind Jezebel, and he knew that Ahab was ruthless.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ahab and the Prophetic.

Ahab had an interesting attitude to the prophetic. Many church leaders respond in a similar way.

1) User
Ahab used other people for his purpose.

1 Kings 21:3-11; 22 1-4: 18:5, 22:26
He used woman to do his dirty work
1 Kings 14:2; 21:5-16; 19:1
He was willing to use prophets when it suited.
1 Kings 13:6, 14:2, 20:3.
Vulnerability: Many pastors like to use prophets for their purpose. Some use woman to achieve their goals, because it is easier to manage them. This opens the gate wide to the Jezebel spirit.

2) Court Prophets
They can be relied on to support what the leaders say.
1 Kings 22:10-13,22,23.
Vulnerability: Many churches have tame/pet prophets.

3) Rejected Prophetic Challenge
Ahab was unable to accept a challenge.
1 Kings 17:1, 13:4.
Vulnerability: Many Pastors do not like being challenged.

4) False Accusations
He made false accusations against the prophets
1 Kings 18:17, 21:20
Vulnerability: It is easy to spread rumours about prophets.

5) Hostile to prophets
Ahab attacked the prophets when challenged. He tried to destroy them
1 Kings 13:4; 18:9, 14, 22:26,27
He raised his hand against them.
Vulnerability: Many prophets have been destroyed by Pastors.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ahab and Authority

Christian leaders can learn from Ahab's use and misuse of authority.

1) People Pleaser
Jeroboam was appointed by the people not God

1 Kings 12:20
Ahab was willing to let the people decide.
1 Kings 18:19,20; 1 Kings 12:20; 13:33; 20:32, 34 20:4; 8:19,39
Vulnerability: People pleasing is a danger for pastors.

2) Outsider
Ahab came from a lower level position
His mother was a widow 1 Kings 11:26
God exalted him 1 Kings 14:7
Jeroboam, Zimri, Baasha, Omri, Jehu were all outsiders who went to the top. This leads to insecurity
1 Kings 11:28; 1 Kings 15:27; 16:9, 16:16
Vulnerability: Most pastors come from outside the church, invited by the people. They have to win acceptance of the people. This leads to insecurity

In the New Testament, leaders were raised up from within church. They were known and came with credibility. They did not have to establish themselves.

3) Deception
Ahab used pretence, deception to achieve what he wanted
1 Kings 14: 2,6; 22:30.
Vulnerability: Many Christian leaders wear a mask. This covers up insecurity.

4) Factions
Ahab and Jeroboam took advantage of the factions to consolidate their position
1 Kings 12:19; 16:21; 18:21.
Vulnerability: Pastors can be tempted to manipulate factions.

5) Usurper
Ahab took a position that was not his by right.
2 Chron 13:5,6. 1 Kings 16:9
He plotted, conspired and took a position given to the house of David.

Vulnerability: Jesus is the chief shepherd = senior pastor.
It is dangerous to take that title.

6) Opportunist
Ahab took advantage of people’s weakness to get his own way.
2 Chron 13:6,7; 1 Kings 16:9, 15:27.
Vulnerability: Pastors often surround themselves with weak leaders.

7) Ruthless
Ahab dealt severely with predecessor’s heirs
2 Kings 15:29, 16:1
Vulnerability: How do you treat the people loyal to your predecessor?

8) Control
Ahab desired control
1 Kings 13:4
Vulnerability: over-control is a temptation for all leaders.

9) Power Struggle
Ahab won a power struggle. He prevailed
1 Kings 16:22, 18:20
Vulnerability: joining power struggles is a dangerous temptation for all leaders.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ahab's Character

God held a plumbline against the house of Ahab and it failed the test. The house was not upright.

The Bible teaches quite a bit about Ahab’s character. They provide important lessons for church leaders. These vulnerabilities leave church leader vulnerable to the Ahab spirit, which opens the way for the Jezebel spirit.

1) Populism
Ahab walked in the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat (1 Kings 16:31)

Jeroboam = the people increase, multiply
Nebat = look.
Ahab and Jeroboam looked to the people. They were populist leaders.
Vulnerability: Insecure leaders find populism hard to resist.

2) Presumption
Ahab thought to himself, he devised schemes in his heart
1 Kings 12:28,29, 22:8, 12:33.
Vulnerability: Many Christian leaders copy the ideas of other men.

Ahab was enticed into compromise when he should have stood firm.
1 Kings 12:28,29; 16:31,33: 20:32,34; 11:40 II Kings 17:21; 8:18; 2 Chron 21:13 (prostitute themselves)
Ahab = Brother is father
Everyone was Ahab’s brother
Hiel rebuilt Jericho in Ahab’s time 1( Kings 16:34).
Vulnerability: Just as harshness is always a temptation to prophets,
compromise is always a temptation to peace lovers.

4) Tolerate
Ahab tolerated evil.
Rev 2:20, 1 Kings 16:31, 20:4; 20:33.
Vulnerability: This is risk for pastors in church without prophets. The problem is not Jezebel, but leaders who tolerate evil for the sake of peace.

5) Comfort
Ahab enjoyed the comforts of the flesh
1 Kings 16:9; 18:41; 21:1,2; 22:34; 21:16
Vulnerability: Enough said

6) Jealous
He was troubled by covetousness and jealousy
1 Kings 21:2; 11:26,27
Vulnerability: what if some of your sheep go to another church. Will you be threatened

7) Money
He used money to achieve results, bribery
1 Kings 13:7; 20:3,4; 21:2.
Vulnerability: Money problems are common in churches.

8) Anger
Ahab was sullen and angry (vexed NASB)
1 Kings 20:43; 21,2
Vulnerability: sulleness and sulking are a slippery slope.

9) Threats and Control
Ahab used threats and intimidation to control people.
1 Kings 18:10,11.
Vulnerability: Controlling guilty or vulnerable people is easy for pastors/leaders.

10) Up and Down
Sometimes Ahab was hard hearted. Other times he was humble – aconvenient humility
1 Kings 20:25-29.
Vulnerability: inconsistency is risky

11) Rebellion
Ahab ended in rebellion
1 Kings 11:26; 12:19; 16:20; 21:25;
He set up idols
1 Kings 12:31; 21:26;
Vulnerability: Some church programmes can become idols

12) Resisted the Kingdom of God
2 Chron 13:8,12
Rev 2:26,27.
Those who persevered in Thyatira were promised the Kingdom of God
They would have the Morning Star,
ie they will defeat Satan Is 14:12
Vulnerability: there is not much interest in the kingdom among church leaders.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ahab/Jeroboam Complex

Christians get worked up about the Jezebel spirit, but before there can be a Jezebel there must be an Ahab.

Ahab brought Jezebel to Israel.
The church must understand this.
There were a set of behaviours that were repeated again and again in Israel. It was these behaviours opened the way for the Spirit of Jezebel
They started with Jeroboam
House of Jeroboam
1 Kings 13:34
1 Kings 14:10
They reached a climax in Ahab.
The House of Ahab
2 Chron 22:8
2 Kings 10:30
Not a Wimp
Ahab has been totally misunderstood by Christians. We think of him as a wimp, but this is wrong. His father Omri was the commander of the army, and you only got that job in those days, if you were physically tough and totally ruthless. Omri killed off all the opposition to become king. Ahab was Omri’s son, so he would have been brought up tough (1 Kings 16:16).

Kings did not last long in those times, so Ahab’s twenty-two year reign was a record (1Kings 16:22). He built palaces and a fortified city (1 Kings 22:39). He was a very successful warrior-king at time when war was fought hand-to-hand. Ahab was mean, tough and strong, and had killed his share of men. He was a bully, not a wimp.
Ahab married Jezebel for political convenience. He needed a peace treaty with her father and their marriage was part of the deal.

Ahab was a hard, tough, mean political and military operator, who expected to get his own way. When he asked for something, people would jump to get it. This is why was sulking over the Naboth incident.

↓ Nadab
→ Baasha
↓ Elah
→ Zimri
→ Omri
↓ Ahab
The Jezebel spirit cannot hold in church, unless an Ahab spirit already exists among the leadership opens the way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

First Shambles and Authority

Before departing this topic, it is worth looking at where the authority really lay.

  1. The Judean Christians had no authority over the Christians in Antioch. One group of Christians cannot tell another group do things. A prophetic Christian can tell another group of Christians what they believe the Lord is saying, but they are free to ignore the word, if they believe it is not correct. Experienced Christians can explain the truth to other, but they cannot make their listeners do things.

  2. The elders in Antioch, like Paul and Barnabas, had authority over the Christians in Antioch, because these new Christians had submitted to them. This was voluntary authority. The Antioch Christians were free to withdraw that authority, if the elders lost the plot.

  3. The apostles in Jerusalem did not have authority over the believers in Antioch. Jesus did not give them authority over Christians everywhere in the world. The only apostles who would have authority in Antioch, would be apostles who had established the church there. The new Christians in Antioch would have submitted to them as elders.

  4. By submitted their problem to the elders and apostles in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas gave them temporary authority in Antioch. The elders and apostles had authority with respect to the issue that had been submitted to them. Once their decision had be made and submitted to the people, this temporary authority came to an end.

  5. God did not give a group of apostle the authority over the entire church. He did not use meetings of Christians the power to decide theological issues by making democratic decisions. The Holy Spirit is the guardian of true theology. Jesus said that he would lead us into all truth (John 16:12). We do not need a church council to determine the truth.

  6. Judas and Silas were given authority to speak on behalf of the Elders and Apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15:27). This authority was very limited in scope to the issue at hand.

  7. Once the Christians in Antioch, realised that Judas and Silas were men of God with a clear prophetic voice, they submitted to their authority while they were with them in Antioch. When they returned to Jerusalem, this authority came to an end.

The shambles that is described in Acts 15 is what happens when the best people are not sent out into the battlefield. The Jerusalem apostles tried to deal with a problem by councils and government. This does not work. The best people should be out at the cutting edge, where they can deal with problems as they arise.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

First Church Shambles Sorted

Some passages in Acts provide an example for us to follow and others provide a warning of things to avoid. Acts 15 is a warning. Councils and compromise lead to bad solutions. They should be avoided. Acts 15 does not provide a justification for subsequent ecumenical councils.

In this case the apostles and elders messed things up in Antioch. A fresh new move of God was give a pointless set of rules that could have choked life from it. Fortunately the situation was partially recovered by the prophets. Judas and Silas, who were sent to deliver the letter, were both prophets (Acts 15:22).

Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words (Acts 15:32).
These two prophets did not muck round with stupid rules. They concentrated on encouraging and strengthening the disciples. This is what they really needed.

Silas actually caught the vision of Antioch and became an apostolic prophet. He was Paul’s partner on his second apostolic advance (Acts 15:40). He shared in some of Paul’s greatest adventures.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

First Church Shambles

Several things went wrong at this Acts 15 council.

  1. The apostles did a lot of talking, but no one sought the wisdom of the Spirit.

    After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them….
    The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about…
    When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me…(Acts 15:7.12.13)
    There was a lot of talk, but no listening to the Holy Spirit. Although prophets were present, no one brought a prophecy. At the end of the discussion, James stood up and just announced a decision. This is not the best way to find out God’s will purpose.

  2. The decision of the elders was bizarre. They were witnesses to a critical breakthrough for the gospel: the Gentiles were beginning to receive the gospel. The good news was going into all the world. The apostles should have been rapt. The elders should have been excited. Yet the best that they could do was send down a set of rules.

    abstain from food polluted by idols,
    abstain from sexual immorality,
    abstainfrom the meat of strangled animals
    abstain from blood (Acts 15:20).
    This is bizarre. They were addressing a group of new believers and all they could do was hand out some rules about what to eat. They did not urge the believers to “take up the cross” or to “love one another”. None of Jesus challenges recorded in the gospels were mentioned.

  3. Rules are the beginning of religion. This meeting between the elders and apostles was the first step in turning Christianity from a relationship with Jesus into a set of rules.

  4. Although the apostles and leaders had not sought wisdom of the Holy Spirit, they claimed to be speaking on behalf of the Spirit when they wrote to the believer at Antioch.

    It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements (Acts 15:28).
    This is the sort of wishy washy statement that a committee will produce. “It seemed good”. clearly they were not certain about what they were writing. The letter was a compromise put together by a committee. They could not be totally certain about it, so they lapsed into committeespeak. They then tacked on the words “and the Spirit” to add some validity to their words, even though the Holy Spirit had not spoken during the meeting.

  5. The decision was a compromise. Peter knew that the Holy Spirit wanted to move in the hearts of the Gentiles (Acts 10). Yet he went along with a compromise that was contrary to an amazing vision and spiritual experience. That is the major problem with councils and committees. The best that they can do is produce a compromise. God does not work through voting and compromise.

  6. One of the rules that the council gave to the Christians at Antioch was morally wrong and later had to be corrected. Abstaining from sexual immorality is good advice, although it is not the most important thing to say to new Christians. Avoiding blood is also good hygene. Avoiding strangled animals likewise, although there is no evidence that this was an issue in Antioch. However, the command to abstain from meat offered to idols was not based in the Law of Moses. Paul later proved that this was not a requirement for Christians.

    One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him (Rom 14:2-3).
    God does not care about meat offered to idols. Provided it does not cause a weaker brother to fall, Christians can eat meat offered to idols. Clearly, the elders were not listening to the Holy Spirit, if they thought that he said something different.

  7. The apostles and elders should have told the Jewish Christians who were causing the problem to pull their heads in. They should have explained that they did not understand the gospel. This would have nipped the problem in the bud. Instead, this issue of forcing gentiles to comply with the ceremonial law became a problem all over Asia Minor. The problem spread because the apostles and elders in Jerusalem did not deal with the problem before it got out of hand. Paul and Barnabas gave them an opportunity to sort it out, but they compromised, and an opportunity was lost.

  8. The problem arose, because the apostles had stayed at the centre instead of moving out to the cutting edge. If Peter or James had been in Antioch, they would have understood the seriousness of the problem and done something about it. By staying in Jerusalem, they became part of the problem, as they were out of touch with what was happening in the newer mission fields.

Friday, January 08, 2010

First Church Council - The Problem

During the first five centuries of Christian history, a number of ecumenical councils were held. Tradition says that these councils settled outstanding theological disputes. For example, the Council of Nicea in AD 325 is said to have established the doctrine of the Trinity. My view is that theology of the Trinity is settled in the nature and character of God, not by human councils. Those who listen to the Spirit of God will find the truth. Human councils will usually arrive at a convenient compromise.

Christian historians who back the council movement identify the meeting of elders and apostles in Jerusalem that is recorded in Acts 15 as the first ecumenical council. A careful reading of the text does not support this view. This meeting was not a council that set a pattern for the church; it was actually a shambles that shows how easily these things can go wrong.

The problem arose when the gospel spread to Antioch. At first the gospel was only preached to Jews, but eventually the Gentiles began to receive the gospel. Some Jewish Christian arrived in town and claimed that gentile Christians should be circumcised according to the law of Moses.

Paul and Barnabas already had a relationship with apostles and elders in Jerusalem from the time when they both lived and preached there (Acts 9:26-30). They were sent up to Jerusalem to talk to the about the problem (Acts 15:2).

The apostles and elders met to consider this question (Acts 15:6).
I will look at their solution to the problem tomorrow.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Speaking Clearly

Joseph said to Pharaoh,

Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them (Gen 41:29-30).
Joseph was accepted by Pharaoh, because had received a clear straightforward message from the Holy Spirit.

Daniel said the King,
This is what these words mean:
God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. (Dan 5:26-28).
The Spirit gave Daniel words that the King could not understand.

God wants his prophets to speak to political and business leaders. These leaders will only listen, if the prophets bring clear words. If prophets bring confusion and mystery, they will be ignored.

Prophets must learn to hear what the Spirit is saying to the political and business leaders, so they can bring a clear word. They must also learn to remain silent, if they have not heard from him.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Listen to the Spirit

The angel said the following words to John seven times.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 2:7).
Jesus said something similar at least four times.
He who has ears, let him hear (Matt 13:9).
These words must be really important.

The first think to note is that the Spirit speaks. He speaks clearly in a language that we can know. He does not speak gobbledegook that we cannot understand.

Secondly, we must listen to his voice. The Holy Spirit loves to speak and longs for his people to listen. The most important ability needed for serving God is to be able to hear the Spirit speak. If we can hear him speak, everything falls into place.

If we cannot hear him, it is unlikely that he has stopped speaking. If all we are getting is confusion, the Spirit has not lost the plot; we are not listening correctly.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


I am reading The Arabs by Eugene Rogan. Although he is based at Oxford University, he uses Arab sources to describe the history of the Arab people through their own eyes: an interesting contrast with western-centric view that we get in our media.

I have just read a section describing the Ottoman Empire. Like previous empires, the Ottomans did not attempt to control everything in the empire. They appointed a governor in every region they conquered. In return for the honour and power, the governor was required to supply several thousand troops for the imperial army and collect taxes to be paid into the imperial coffers (just like Herod and Pilate).

This system worked well for them, because most of the fighting was done by foreign vassals, yet wealth flowed to the centre of the empire to support the lifestyle of the emperor and his lackeys. The British used the same method in their empire.

The American empire is different. Most of the fighting to defend the empire is done by young Americans sent out to foreign lands, but most of the wealth flows the same way. The taxes paid by the people at the heart of the empire are used to pay for the battles at the fringes. Whereas the Ottomans received taxes from their henchmen, Karzai and Maliki administer funds from American coffers, and cream off a share for their cronies.

This is a funny way to run and empire. I do not know how long it can last.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Poltical Influence

I really appreciate many of Greg Boyd’s insights. His exposure of Christian blessing of military power is excellent.

Boyd suggests that the “Church does best when it is a persecuted minority”. The problem with this is that when it “does best”, it grows and often becomes a majority. The issue that he does not really deal with is that once, Christian increase to a majority, they must start having an influence in the political sphere.

The problem is that most Christians think that “having and influence” means moving into halls of government and wielding the power that was previously held by others, and using it to impose Christian values. Jim Wallis would use this power to establish social justice. The moral majority would use it to prevent abortion. Both are wrong, because the kingdom of God is not established by political power.

We need a totally different vision based on voluntary authority, in which as the gospel is successful, the political sphere is turned upside down and mostly shrinks away. This will not happen if Christians leave the political sphere alone.

We must create a new society and a new culture based on voluntary authority, that does not need political power.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Transformation from the Bottom Up

Before the problem of growing welfare budgets can be resolved, society will have to be restored to a place where people like Alex and Jack can be supported by their community. That transformation cannot be led from the top by the government. Society can only be restored from the bottom up, as people change the way they live.

I have looked around to see who is going to lead this change, and house churches are the only game in town. We are experts in loving one another and loving our neighbours. That is our distinctive. We know how to build bodies of people in which different members support each other (1 Cor 12). We have the vision, the commitment and the empowering of the Holy Spirit to change society from the bottom up. That is why I am involved and have written a book about Being Church. Jesus is not just interested in reforming the church, his ultimate objective is to use a renewed church to transform society.

The early church proved that it can be done. They did not attempt to reform Caesars taxation policy. They got on the job at the local level. They provided support for widows. The took care of abandoned babies. They built communities where dysfunctional people could be cared for. That approach transformed their society from the bottom up and led to the collapse of the Roman Empire.

The good thing about the bottom up approach is that we do not need anyone’s permission to implement. It does not need government permission. It does not need government funding. Resource Management Act approval is not required. All it needs is a dozen people deciding to live differently and starting to do it. The transformation may not happen quickly. It may take a couple of hundred years. On the other hand things could multiply and transformation of society could come quickly.

The one obstacle is lack of leadership. Most people will only make these changes, if they have pioneering leaders with a different vision to follow. Unless people with leadership skills and experience capture the vision and show the way, nothing will happen.

Transformation of society from the bottom up is the only real solution to the problems of welfare that people worried about. Anything else is just whacking the barometer in attempt to change the weather.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Community Centred Welfare

Christian families are required by the scriptures to provide financial support for family members who fall on hard times. However, a family-centric welfare system is not a total solution. Some families have sufficient resources to care for the weaker members of their families, but many other do not. The problem is that dysfunction does not strike evenly, but is concentrated in some families. They will need from the outside. Many like Jack have no family or have fallen out with it.

Charitable institutions are not the answer. Donations to institutions are not the solution either, because people in need to not want to be dependent on institutions.

The only real solution is the community-centric welfare, but that needs real communities, which we currently do not have.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Entitlement to Welfare

An entitlement approach has crept into attitudes about welfare, but it is prevalent in every area of life. We see it in the bankers, who believe they are entitled to big bonuses. We see it among public service manager, who believe they are entitled to huge salaries. It is widespread among young mothers, who believe that they are entitled to a night, or weekend, away from their families and assume their mothers are obliged to provide the service. It is widespread among employees.

There is nothing new about this entitlement approach. It was used effectively by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The Devil used it again during the temptation of Jesus. “Jump from the Temple and you are entitled to have the angels come and rescue you.

An entitlement approach to life is inevitable in a society that squeezes out the influence of the gospel. Welfarism is just one manifestation of a much deeper and widespread problem. The solution is the gospel, and a renewed mind, not taking away entitlements.

When social connectedness collapses and the influence of the gospel declines, the level of dysfunction increases dramatically and ability of people to support themselves declines. Much of it is self-inflicted or family afflicted, but it does prevent people from caring for themselves.

Advocating a reduction in taxation by reducing welfare payments with nothing to put in its place, makes Christians appear cruel and heartless. It might result in some savings at the margin, but it does not deal with the underlying problem. Given that nothing exists to replace it, I would prefer a slightly generous welfare system, in which some undeserving people get help, to one that is so tight that people with real needs fall through the cracks.

Messages for 2010

The accepted practice among internet prophets at New Year is to issue a prediction/prophecy for the following year. A potential prophet who is silent at New Year will not be taken seriously.

I am not sure about this practice. I have had a quick scan of the latest New Year messages, but I did not find anything that really stirred my heart. Most of these offerings seem rather tame, not much different to the prognostications of secular economic and political commentators.

I have two concerns about the practice. First, God does not think in human concepts of time. He manages history in epochs and seasons. The Julian calendar that we use is irrelevant to his timing. 2010 does not many anything to him, because he measures time in sevens, not decimals or decades. There is no reason why he has anything specifically new to say about 2010.

My other problem is that prophecy is usually initiated by God. He spoke and his servants listened and then spoke what he had revealed. There are a few incidents in the scriptures, where prophets like Jeremiah sought a word from the Lord during a time of crisis and God responded, but the flow of revelation was usually the other way round with God speaking an the prophets responding.

I am pleased that so many prophetic people have been listening for the Lord’s voice, but we should not assume that God will speak, just because another year and decade has ticked over on our human calendar. Assuming that God will speak, when we are ready to listen is just another example of the humanism that pervades our age.