Saturday, April 30, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (9) - Tribulation

Tribulation destroys evil. The multitude in white robes are willing to sacrifice their lives for Jesus.

Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said,
"These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14).
Many Christians talk of a tribulation of purposeless destruction when evil has a free hand on earth. This view is wrong. John saw something, a great multitude who had come through a “great tribulation” to experience victory.
These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14).
This is not a tribulation to escape. That happened in AD 70. Christians should embrace welcome the great tribulation prophesied by John, because it leads to a great victory. This suffering of this multitude in the face of persecution leads to the collapse of evil empires and the emergence of the Kingdom of God.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (8) - Bride of Christ

Bride of Christ
The book or Revelation has been badly misunderstood by the church.

  • It is not time line for the second coming, as many think.
  • It is not a promise of a time when evil takes hold on the earth.
This wonderful vision explains how God will establish his kingdom on earth, but the story has an unexpected twist. God’s kingdom will not be established by a church that triumphantly expands its authority and control. The opposite is true. The Holy Spirit will give the Kingdom of God to the church when it has learned to serve and suffer. John refers to the church that embraces suffering as the Bride who has made herself ready. This is the climax of his Revelation.
Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready (Rev 19:7).
All of heaven and earth were looking for to the time when the bride would be ready. Those who live at this time are truly blessed.
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God” (Rev 19:9).
The next scene is not the second coming, but wonderful a description of the kingdom of God coming on earth, as the enemies of the kingdom are defeated and the work of God is victorious (Rev 19:11-21). The Bride does not get ready for the second coming of Jesus. She gets ready to receive the Kingdom of God as a gift from the Holy Spirit.

John explains how this bride can be recognised.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people) (Rev 19:8).
The Bride that has made herself ready is wearing fine linen. John explains that this is fine linen is the righteous acts of holy people. This can be misunderstood. All Christians are made righteous in Jesus, but this vision goes further. The meaning of the Bride’s garments had already been explained earlier in the fifth seal. The seven seals mark the end of the Times of the Gentiles and the beginning of the Times of Distress.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number were killed just as they had been (Rev 6:9,11).
The white garments are given to Christians who Christians who are persecuted for their testimony and their obedience to the word of God. Their emergence marks the beginning of a season of suffering, following the opening of the first four seals. They are told to wait for the Lord to do his work and bring in the kingdom. They will have to suffer until the time is right. Those who suffer for the gospel during this season will not be rescued. On the contrary, as they persist, their suffering releases the Spirit to do his work.

The size of this group wearing white garments is revealed in the next chapter.
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb" Rev 7:9-10).
A huge multitude in white garments will be called to suffer for Jesus during a time of trouble on earth.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (7) - Two Witnesses

Persecution will almost destroy the church. John saw two witnesses, two olive trees and two lampstands.

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth (Rev 11:3-4).
The lampstands and the witnesses represent the church. The church is Jesus witness in the world. The olive trees represent the Holy Spirit. The odd thing about this vision is that their only two lampstands. Earlier John had seven lampstands.
The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches (Rev 1:20).
Seven represents perfection or completion. The perfected, completed church is represented by seven lampstands. A church with only two lampstands is a truncated church. The church is truncated because the Jewish people have hardened their hearts and are missing from it, so it cannot provide a complete witness for Jesus.

In the latter part of this vision, John explains how the political powers persecute the church so severely, that it appears to be dead.
When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them (Rev 11:7).
The people of the world celebrate joyously, because a minor irritant is gone, but God has a surprise for the world. When the church seems to be dead, he breathes the life of the Spirit onto it and raises it up to victory.
The breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them (Rev 11:11).
A radical church that has survived underground and prepared while no one has noticed will burst onto the world stage, knowing that in Christ, it is seated at his right hand of the Father in heaven (Rev 11:12). The people of the world will be shocked when they realise that church is not dead, just different and far more powerful.

The church must get to the stage where it is nearly dead, before victory will come. At the end of the Times of the Gentiles, the church will almost die, but when it is just about dead, it will be purified, and rise to victory.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (6) - John

Commitment to enduring through suffering is a major theme in the Book of Revelation. John understood that endurance of suffering brings in the kingdom.

Your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus (Rev 1:9).
The kingdom does not come through Christians gaining political power. Rather, as Christians follow Jesus example and take up the cross of suffering, the political powers will collapse, allowing the Kingdom to emerge. This is a mystery that few Christians understand. Patient endurance in the face of evil opens the way for the destruction of evil.

John’s main reason for writing the letters to the seven churches was to encourage them to endure through their suffering. When modern readers focus on the faults of the various churches, we miss something important. Jesus is encouraging his people to endure suffering in the face of hostility from the greatest manifestation of evil that will ever appear on earth.
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary (Rev 2:3 Letter to Ephesus).
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 2:10-11 Letter to Smyrna).
He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels (Rev 3:5 Letter to Sardis).
I know your deeds…. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown (Rev 3:8,11 Letter to Philadelphia)
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God... I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 3:8,12-13 Letter to Philadelphia)
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 3:21-22 Letter to Laodicea).
This last is an amazing promise. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God’s throne. As Christians persevere through suffering, they are seated at the right hand of God.
John explained that Jesus overcame evil by dying on the cross. The Holy Spirit will bring in the kingdom through a church that follows Jesus example.
They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them! (Rev 12:11-12).
This seems like a paradox, but the people of the Lamb experience victory, when they are willing to die for their faith, and do not shrink from death. The fullness of the Holy Spirit dwells in such a church that rises to the right hand of God by suffering.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (5) - Paul

Paul embraced suffering, because he knew that it advances the Kingdom.

All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering (2 Thes 1:5).
Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God (2 Tim 1:7-9).
We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom 5:3-4).
Rome was a dangerous city for Christians. Paul’s letter explains the way to respond to persecution and evil. His advice is challenging.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. (Rom 12:14,17).
This is easy to read, but hard to do. We must bless everyone who harms us. We must not repay those who bring evil against us. There is a good reason for this instruction.
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath (Rom 12:19).
We must always leave room for God to act. If we respond with curses or violence towards those who harm us, we shut down God’s freedom to act. On the other hand, if we bless those who harm us, we release the Holy Spirit to work in their lives.

When facing evil, we must not take the situation into our own hands. We want the Holy Spirit to be active, so we must guard against words and deeds that would restrain him.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
When we do good to those who inflict evil upon, we open the way for the Holy Spirit to do good to us and to them. If they reject the Holy Spirit, they put themselves under God’s judgment.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (4) - Peter

The first letter of Peter has been called an epistle on suffering. Peter reiterates Jesus message about responding to evil by doing good.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult,
but with blessing, because to this you were called
so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Pet 3:12).
Those who follow Jesus must respond to evil with blessing. This is the way that we inherit blessing. When we respond to evil with insults and violence, we lose God’s blessing and block the Holy Spirit.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Pet 3:12).
The Lord looks out for those who respond to evil by doing good, bit his face is set against those who do evil. We must not resist people who inflict evil upon us, even if it means suffering. God will deal with them.

Suffering defeats the power of the enemy.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:8-10).
Suffering by Christians will lead to God’s victory.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (3) - Politics and War

Political power cannot defeat evil.

  • When Christians rely on political power, the Holy Spirit flees.
  • When we use coercion against evil, God is squeezed out.
  • Whenever we resist evil by with force, anger and hatred are empowered.
When the Christians takes up the cross follows Jesus, the Holy Spirit is released, and he is able to defeat the principalities and powers will be defeated.

The Kingdom of God will be established by the Holy Spirit working through the church. Unfortunately, he has been hamstrung by our tendency to rely political power to deal with evil.

When we fight evil with violence and war, the Holy Spirit retreats. This creates a vacuum that is filled by evil spiritual forces. The kingdom of God cannot be established by war, because when war starts, the Holy Spirit withdraws and the principalities and powers move in. This is why war invariably makes the situation worse, even if the cause appears to be good. Evil wins, because the Holy Spirit has to withdraw.

In the struggle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness, the Holy Spirit will always be the winner, if he he has freedom to move. When the church commits to suffering in the face of evil, the principalities and powers will be defeated.

Service is the key to the Kingdom. It often leads to suffering. Suffering releases the Holy Spirit, allowing him to achieve victory.

Christians often misunderstand the Holy Spirit. We have these false assumptions.
  • We must resist evil, or be overcome by evil.
  • Violence must be destroyed, before it destroys us.
  • If we do not defend our way of life, we will be forced to surrender our faith.
  • We must use force against those who hate the gospel, or it might be lost.
  • We must defeat those who would harm us, before they destroy.
At the physical level, these statements appear to be true. Violent people often harm good people. Evil nations sometimes invade peaceful nations. However, this is only half the picture.

When the spiritual dimension is taken into account the shape of the struggle is different. First of all, Christians have eternal life, so they cannot be destroyed by evil. More importantly, what happens in the spiritual dimension determines who gets victory on earth. When Christians use force and political power, the Holy Spirit is constrained. When Christians choose love, compassion and service, the power of the Holy Spirit is released.

Giving the Holy Spirit freedom to act is the key to the victory of the Kingdom. Anything that restrains the Holy Spirit holds back the kingdom of God. Using force to protect lives or to protect our nation, may make sense at the physical level, but it hinders the coming of the Kingdom of God. Before the Kingdom can be established, God will have to shake our faith in human power, and teach us to trust the Holy Spirit. Given the immensity of his power, any other course of action is foolish.

We must trust the cross. Jesus went to the cross to defeat the principalities, abolish the political powers and establish the kingdom of Gods. We must follow his example. The Kingdom comes when we take up the cross and follow Jesus.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (2) - Defeating the Powers

God intends to defeat the principalities and power through his church.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph 3:10,11).
The church will defeat the spiritual powers, but the process is not what we expect. Jesus achieved his greatest victory when he suffered and died on the cross. The powers of evil will not be defeated by force, but by suffering. When the church gets serious about suffering, the Holy Spirit is released to drive out the evil powers.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is peace, so peace can overcome anger and wrath.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Prov 15:1).
When we respond to evil with anger, we stir up more anger, which grieves the Holy Spirit and releases the powers of evil. When Christians give in to anger and hate, spirits of anger and hatred gain control of the people they are resisting.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (1)

Many Christians believe that the Kingdom of God will be established when Jesus returns with violent power and destroys all those who oppose him. This view is a distortion of the gospel. Jesus was adamant that his kingdom will not be established by force and coercion.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
Evil will not be overcome by greater evil. Evil must be overcome by good.

Paul explains the reason for not retaliating.
Beloved, do not retaliate for yourselves, but rather leave room for the wrath of God (Rom 12:19).
If we retaliate against those who harm us, we leave “no room” for God. This is one reason the Kingdom has been slow to come.

Service Releases the Spirit. The Kingdom of God is established by service and suffering. The reason is simple. The Holy Spirit loves service. When Christians serve others, he is there with them, touching the hearts of those they serve. Serving destroys the powers of darkness. When Judas had betrayed Jesus, the political powers gained a victory. Jesus washed Judas’s feet to nullify the power of their victory (John 13:1-30).

The Holy Spirit really goes to work when Christian suffer as they are serving. In a passage on suffering, Peter gives this promise.
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:14).
Peter is referring back to the Shekinah Glory of God. When we suffer for Jesus, the Holy Spirit rests on us, and flows out to touch those who are persecuting us. When Christians respond with agape love to those who intend them harm, the Holy Spirit has freedom to work in of those doing the harm.

When people watch a Christian suffering, they open up to the Holy Spirit. He is able to convict them of sin and reveal Jesus. A good example is the centurion who crucified Jesus.
When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous man!” (Luke 23:47).
This centurion would have crucified hundreds of people doing his career. He was a battle-hardened killing machine. Yet after watching Jesus die, this man glorified God and declared that Jesus was a righteous man. Jesus suffering had released the Holy Spirit to work in his heart.

This full series is at Suffering and the Kingdom.

Islam and Freemasonry

After both world wars, freemasonry received a huge boost in New Zealand. It was popular among men who missed the camaraderie with other men they had experienced why serving overseas.

The main spirits that work through freemasonry are:

  • fear of death
  • spiritual deadness
  • violence
  • religious spirit.
  • good works
During the first war, New Zealand soldiers fought in Turky, Egypt and Palestine. In the second war, they fought in North Africa. These countries were all Moslem countries.

Islam is not a single spirit. It is a cluster of spirits working together for a common purpose. The relative strength of these spirits differ from place to place, and they sometimes fight against each other. That is why the situation in Asia is quite different to the Middle East.

The main spirits that work through Islam are:

  • rejection
  • fear of death
  • religious spirit
  • good works
  • spiritual deadness
  • violence
  • fighting and war
The New Zealand soldiers were engaged in an immoral war, so they had very little spiritual protection. The fear and terror of war made them vulnerable and their formal religion left them without discernment. They picked up the spirits that are carried by Islam and brought them back to New Zealand where they manifested in Freemasonry.

In 1977, when the New Zealand Meat Board came under pressure from Moslem countries to introduce Halal Slaughtering of meat (see Dangerous Meal Deal), they were unable to resist, because some of them were freemasons, who had already submitted to the Islamic spirits.

Freemasonry has been going downhill fast over the last few decades, but the spirits are still here. They now manifest in a rejected generation.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Circuit Breaker

Despite all the promises and promises of revival,
nothing seems to be happening.

It seems like something more is needed
to break things open.

What is the circuit breaker,
that will open the way
for the Holy Spirit to really move?

People are praying for revival.

Prophets are prophesying
an outpouring of the Holy Spirit,
but nothing is happening.

God will not put new wine
into old wineskins.

Dark clouds are coming,
but the church is not ready;
no one is ready.

The days are urgent
but nothing changes.

We should be using the time to prepare.

The circuit breaker is

Christians Connecting

God can pour out his Spirit,
but he cannot make people connect.
We must do that ourselves.

We have to choose to act.

Christians must be fully connected.

The body must have four limbs
all joined to the body:
pastors, prophets, evangelists, apostles.
Each bone must be joined to two other.
Each limb should have five fingers or toes.

We cannot get connected together
by meeting on a Sunday.

It will take a much greater commitment.

God’s strategy is to connect Christians together in new wineskins.

Prophets should be prophesying connection (Ezek 37:4-6).
This will open the way for prophesying
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

from February 2006

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Church Meetings (3) - Doing Jesus Stuff

I attended a seminary for three years. We attended a meeting to listen to lectures every day. All I learned was how to preach to a meeting. I did not learn to do the Jesus stuff.

I also learned how to run meetings. After many years in the church, I am good at it. I can run a meeting with one eye closed and both hands tied behind my back, but I am hopeless at doing the stuff that Jesus did in the gospels. Church meetings are full of people like me; who are ineffective and powerless.

We need to break that cycle spiritual poverty before the next generation emerges. It will not happen in meetings. It will only happen when new Christians start following someone who is following Jesus.

Jesus called the twelve people to follow him. They followed him round and learned to do what he was doing. Once they were able to do what he was doing, with him standing watching to pick up the pieces if things went wrong, he sent them out on their own to do it. When they came through on their own, he sent others with them to learn by following.

When a church has a meeting, it is like a car with the engine running,
but the automatic transmission stuck on N.
It sounds impressive, but the car will not go anywhere.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Church Meetings (2) - Attend or Follow

Much is made of the reference to "meeting together" in Heb 10:24,25.A

nd let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.
The Greek word for “meeting together” is “episunagogue”. There is nothing to suggest that the passage only refers to formal meetings. Jesus used the verbal form of this word when saying referring to a hen gathering her chicks together under her wings. It can refer to a formal meeting, but often does not. The author of Hebrews is warning about the dangers of isolation from other believers. He wants Christians to spur each other on. That can happen anywhere, bit it rarely happens in big meetings, because people get dulled by too much “spurring on” from preachers.

When a person comes to faith in Jesus, the standard instruction to the new Christian is to join a good church. The unspoken assumption is that if they attend a church meeting each week, they will be fine (ie meetings save?) But they will not be fine. Millions of Christians have attended meetings for years and years, but remained immature and in ineffective. Issues that should be been resolved in the first few months of following Jesus continue to weigh them down for their rest of their lives.

Better advice would be to tell the new Christian to find someone to follow (this is Pauls approach). If the new Christian has a pastoral nature, they should find someone who in effective in that gifting and follow them round until they have become effective their ministry. If they have an evangelistic calling, they should find an effective evangelist and follow them until they have become an effective evangelist. If the new Christian has a prophetic bent, they should find an effective prophet and follow them until they have learned how to be an effective prophet. If they are confused about their calling, and choose the wrong person to follow, it will soon become clear. They can switch to a different person to follow when their calling is clear.

Following a more mature Christian is a far more effective strategy for a new Christian wanting to learn the Jesus stuff, than joining a church and attending meetings. We should stop telling new Christians to join a church. Instead, we should say, “Follow me!” or “Follow Fred” or “Follow Freda”.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Church Meetings (1) Waste of Time

Most church meetings are a waste of time and effort, whether the church is large megachurch or a small house church Most of the reasons given to justify these meetings are invalid.

  1. Worship. Most Christians think that worship is something we do on Sunday. This is not true. All our lives should be an act of worship. Worship in a large group is an encouraging bonus, but it is not essential.

  2. Teaching. There is nothing in the scriptures to suggest that Christians need to listen to an hour of good teaching each week for the rest of their lives. A new Christian who is serious about following Jesus can be taught the basics of the Christian faith in a few weeks. From there on, they can learn what they need to know by listening to voice of the Holy Spirit. The main purpose of the weekly teaching format is to give the teacher a place to perform.

    If a Christian is stumped by an issue, they can search the scriptures, or look look up the answer on the internet. Most modern Christians have had so much teaching that they are choking on it. What they need is a bit more doing, but they will not learn that at a meeting.

  3. Oversight. Most Christians know how to put on a holy mask while they are at a church meeting (I have done it for so many years, I can do it without thinking). The elders responsible for providing oversight generally do not have a clue about what is going on in their day-to-day lives. To offer credible oversight, an elder needs to see how a Christian functions in their family or at work. The best way to get insight into a person’s spiritual state is to share with them in some service in the world.

  4. Training. Attendance at meetings trains Christians to be passive. The best training comes in the way Jesus trained his disciples. Take a few people with you into the world to do the Jesus stuff, so they can see how it is done. When they have watched for a while, get them to have a go, dealing with an easy case, with the leader ready to come in and help if things turn to custard. When they are competent, get them to start training others. That will really sharpen their ministry.

  5. Gifts of the Spirit. Some people may only get help, when several people move in complementary gifts of the Spirit to get to the bottom of a problem that is holding them back. That could happen at the front of a meeting, but it will usually be less effective, because one superstar will be performing. Good stuff is more likely to happen and be more effective, if a group of Christians friends gather in a friend’s living room. The Holy Spirit can really get to work when he has a group of people who love one another to flow through

  6. Learning the Gifts. The front of a meeting is not a good place to learn to operate in the gifts of the Spirit. A better is a place to learn is a friend’s home with a few people that are trusted. Once the Christians has learned to move in the gifts, the next step is not to the front of a church meeting, but to go into the world with some friends.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Church Strategy (5) - Three Elements

Our strategy should have three important elements.

1. Place of Safety
The darkness is squeezing out the light in our society.

Christians are currently a small minority in our society. Currently, we are tolerated, but when evil grows in confidence, this might change. If the world becomes hostile, standing alone will be dangerous. Christians are currently spread thinly throughout society. That was fine when were a strong influence in society, but is risky for a small minority. Isolated people are easily crushed.
We need a house church model that can provide safety in a time of darkness.

2. Rescue Vehicle
As darkness spreads, pain and sorrow will expand in the world.
Many people in the world will need to be rescued. This will be a huge opportunity for the church, but only if we are ready.
We need a house church model that is capable of rescuing people who are crushed in the world.

3. Kingdom of God
The Holy Spirit will not be defeated. He will eventually push back the darkness and build the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is not national.

The Kingdom of God is not the church.

The Kingdom of God is not political.

The Holy Spirit will give the Kingdom of God to restored local communities.
We need a house church model that can receive the Kingdom of God. We need a house church model that the Holy Spirit can use to bring the Kingdom of God into neighbourhoods and local communities.

This full series is at House Church Strategy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Church Strategy (4) - Serious Problem

Modern church strategies do not touch the modern world of the Eighty Percent.

House Church have not done much better. This is a serious challenge.

Here is the Big Question.
How do we get over this barrier?
More of the same will not get the job done.
We need a House Church model that can jump over the barrier and reach the Modern World.

Church Strategy (3) - Shrinking Influence

The numbers within our cultural orbit are getting older and less like to change. Their numbers are shrinking rapidly. Young people are leaking across the boundaries in a huge flood.

If they get their model wrong, house churches can be limited to rescuing people that are falling out of the church.
Many of the people who join house churches are in danger of falling out of the church, because they are hurt. They were Serious Christians once, but bad experiences have deadened their passion. They are slipping out into Christian Memory. House Churches are a powerful tool for rescuing these people, but it is hard work. Many have been burned by over-zealous authority, so they are hard to get close to. Most carry unfinished baggage, so few will become world changers.

Many Christians are seeking a revival. Traditional revivals occurred among people with a Christian Memory. They were stirred by passionate preaching and revival meetings. Even if revival occurred in New Zealand, it would hardly be noticed, because it would only touch the lives of people within the shrinking twenty percent who have a Christian Memory. The rest of society would not be touched. Revival is a false hope for New Zealand and most countries in the West. Something more radical will have to happen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Church Strategy (2) - Attractional

Modern church strategies are effective within the Christian Memory group.

They church has developed good techniques for drawing people from within narrow sphere of influence. All efforts are focused on getting people with a Christian Memory to become Serious Christians.
  • Church growth strategies are based on study of this group.

  • The first Billy Graham crusades in 1958 had a huge impact.

  • The Charismatic renewal really touched this group.

  • Seeker-friendly services are still effective with them.

  • These strategies are centred on church meetings. If we can get a person with a Christian Memory to come to a meeting, the professionals can swing them into serious faith.

This is an attractional model. Our task it to get people from the Christian Memory into church meetings of some kind.
  • Attractional strategies have been effective with people within this narrow sphere of influence.

  • House Churches might just be the last legs of the attactional strategy. Attracting people to a church is getting really difficult. Attracting people who are losing their Christian Memory into a home is easier than attracting them to a church building. They might be more comfortable sitting in a lounge of a friend’s home sipping coffee in front of a warm fire.

  • The House Church model still focuses on getting people to attend meetings. Hopefully they are better meetings, where the Holy Spirit is freer to move.

  • When a person from the Modern World is reached by the gospel, they have to be socialised into life within our cultural orbit. The new believer is expected to change to be like us. A new language has to be learnt. They have to learn to be comfortable in our church meetings. They have to learn a new way of thinking.

  • House Churches can make this social, cultural and philosophical transformation easier.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Church Strategy (1) - Target Population

From the perspective of the gospel, our target population can be thought of as three groups.

Serious Christians
The hard core of serious Christians is probably about 5 percent of the population.

Serious Christians have the following characteristics.
  • They are serious about serving God
  • They attend church regularly.
  • Their numbers are shrinking rapidly
  • This group is aging rapidly.
  • The future of the church depends on this group.

Christian Memory
The second group have a Christian memory, but do not participate in the church. They might be a twenty percent of the population.

The Christian memory group have the following characteristics.
  • They may have gone to church or sunday school when they were young.
  • Their mothers were active in the church.
  • Their fathers went occasionally
  • They can sing How Great Thou Art at a funeral
  • They do not think about it much, but sort of believe there is a in God
  • When things go wrong they pray,
  • They do not know how to pray, so it is usually a desperate cry for help.
  • When things go well they believe someone was watching out for them.
  • They love spam messages about miracles and prayer.
  • They forward on emails about angels.
  • This group is getting older and is probably shrinking.
  • Perhaps they should be called the Church Memory group, because many have a quite distorted understanding of Jesus and the gospel.

Modern World
The third group belongs in the modern world. In parts of America this group is getting up toward 60 percent of the population. In New Zealand, they could be 80 percent.
The Modern World Group has the following characteristics.
  • This group never goes to church, except for funerals and weddings, and they feel about as comfortable as a Christian would feel in a mosque or masonic lodge.
  • They do not call themselves atheists, because they do not define themselves in terms of an attitude to God.
  • The possibility of a Christian God just never occurs to them. The idea is simply not on the radar.
  • They never think about God, even in a crisis.
  • They never pray, except to say “Oh God!”
  • When things go wrong, they go to the doctor or the gym.
  • They hate religion, because they believe that it causes most of the problems in the world. Like John Lennon, they would love a world with no religion.
  • These people know a few Christians at work or at the gym, but they do not particularly like them. Christians seem a bit odd. They tolerate Christians, but they would not see them as role models or want them as friends.
  • This group is quite spiritual, but they live in a complex spiritual world with a whole bunch of spiritual ideas and realities all mixed up together.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Did Christians Die (4) - Sacrifice

During a disaster, some Christians will put their lives at risk to rescue others. Some may stand back or let other people escape first. If they lose their lives, they have taken up the cross and followed Jesus to their death.

Jesus commissioned his followers take the gospel into all nations, including those that area mess. If Christians covenant with a city they are called to live in, they will share in the poverty and problems that emerge in the city. God cannot protect them from the fate of their chosen home.

God wants his people to living in places with problems, so they can be salt and light to bring blessing and peace. This will often be tough and some will lose their lives for their faith. A Christian martyr may experience an awful death, but they have died at the right time and place.

The full series is at Why Did Christians Die?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Did Christians Die (3) - Spiritual Warfare

Since the fall, life on earth has been a spiritual battle between good and evil. Every war produces casualties. Our spiritual war is not different.

  • The devil is prowling around like a lion looking for people to destroy.

    Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
  • God promised protection, but it is not magical.

  • If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent (Psalm 91:9-13).

    This promise is conditional on us taking refuge in him. We are kept safe by walking in the Spirit. If we follow the leading of the Spirit every day, he can keep us safe, but if we wander from his path, he cannot guarantee our protection. If we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, his angels may not be there to protect us. However, if a Christian did get it wrong, God will not tell us, and they cannot, so we should be careful about making accusations. We are called to be comforters, not accusers.

  • A more important problem is that the western church’s lack of understanding about spiritual warfare. Many Christians belong to churches that do not understand spiritual warfare and spiritual protection. This can lead to casualties during a disaster.

  • Spiritual protection is plural. It comes through strong relationships with other Christians, but we often wander around on our own, as if we were living in peacetime. When Christians are isolated, they are vulnerable to evil attack. Our casual approach to the spiritual battle makes casualties inevitable.

  • Relationships with other are essential for our spiritual protection. The Holy Spirit will often prompt the friends of the person whose life was in danger to engage in spiritual warfare on their behalf. If they are not listening, it is not fare to blame God.

  • God appoints prophets to warn his people of danger. In many churches, the prophets are asleep. In these situations, Christians may not get the warnings they need to survive through a disaster.

  • Some churches have encouraged their member to fight in foolish human wars. If we take up arms without God’s permission, we cannot expect him to protect us from the consequence.

Our main response to disaster should be to check our own house and ensure that the spiritual protection around us is secure.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why Did Christians Die (2) - Time to Die

Each of us has a time to die. For some Christians, that time might coincide with a disaster.

  • God never promised that we would never die. He has not even promised us a specific number of years.

  • Our lives end when God considers we have finished our work on earth. That time can arrive at any stage in our lives.

  • We are not good judges of when a person’s life is complete. We often think a person has died too soon, but we do not have an eternal perspective. Life on earth is a blink compared with all eternity. If a blink is shortened to half a blink, very little is lost.

  • God has not made any promises about how we will die. He did not guarantee that Christians would die in their sleep. Moses dropped dead on the day his work was complete, but that probably only happens with an extremely godly life (Deut 24:5). God has not promised that we will not die in a disaster.

  • Death is not the end for Christians, because we are promised life after death.

    Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you (John 14:1-2)?

    This hope is more certain than death. Christians who died in a disater are just as safe with God, as if they had died in their sleep.

  • Christians have a wonderful hope, so death is not the end, but a beginning of eternal life. That hope should change our perspective on every death, especially those that occur during in a disaster.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Why Did Christians Die (1) - Big Question

When disasters strike and Christians are killed, people ask why it happened. Some Christians will wonder why God did not protect his people and may begin thinking that promises like Psalm 121:5-8 might need to be modified.

The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Christians want to be able to trust God’s promises, but when a Christian dies during a disaster, their faith is shaken. Many ask the big question.
Why did it happen?
Several common responses should be avoided when asking this question.
  1. We should not base a theology of personal suffering and evil on what happened to our friends. Our theology should be drawn from the Word of God. Forcing the scriptures to fit our experience is unwise.

  2. When trying to deal with difficult questions we must be avoid solutions that impugn God’s character or suggest that he did evil. A tendency to blame God often emerges when things go wrong, but blaming him for things he has not done is foolish. It is better to err on blaming people or evil spirits than on blaming God. Job provides an example of a good attitude to God.

    In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 2:10).

    We are fallible fallen humans, so we should be very careful about passing responsibility to God, especially if we do not have our own house in order. We must be careful not to take offence at God, as it destroys faith.

  3. Some Christians suggest that we should just trust God without asking questions. He knows why the disaster happened, so we do not need to know. This not very satisfactory, because it can make God seem inconsistent or irrational. It is hard to trust a God, who saves one and refuses to rescue another, without any apparent reason, so blind faith is never the answer.

  4. An opposite view that is gaining transaction is not better. The tragic death was just bad luck. The Christians was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This does not help, because God is pushed out and replaced by the false god of randomness.

There are several good reasons why a Christian might die during a disaster. I will discuss these in the next few posts.

We probably will not know which reason applies in each situation, but understanding the possibilities will help us avoid using the Lord's name in vain.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Cause of the Christchurch Earthquake (8) - Endgame

God’s plan and purpose for Christchurch has not changed. The forces of evil are flexing their muscles in the city, because they hate God’s purpose for the city and want to prevent them from being fulfilled. They will throw a few more economic tantrums, but they cannot prevent the Holy Spirit from fulfilling his plans for Christchurch.

The founders of Christchurch made many mistakes, but they gained a strong sense of God’s purpose for the city. They aspired to build a society based on faith and obedience to God, where Christian civilisation could be preserved from the forces destroying their world.

The Canterbury Settlement… appears likely to further the efforts already made to extend the blessed influence of the Redeemer’s kingdom, not only throughout New Zealand, but also in the surrounding islands of the Pacific Ocean.
They believed that the city would leaven the whole mass of the earth with the light and glory of the gospel of the Kingdom.

This is God’s destiny for Christchurch. He wants Christchurch to be a model to the nations of a city living under his government and being a light to the nations. As evil spreads, he is preparing people who can be a light shining in the darkness. He wants to give Christchurch his kingdom, so it can be copied in other nations and continents, as they turn back to God. The Kingdom of God is central to God’s purpose for Christchurch.

We must be careful not to let the earthquake set our agendas. Reacting to events is always limiting. Reacting to enemy’s actions can be rally distracting. We should be actively led by the Spirit into all that God has planned for us. If we just respond to what the enemy is doing, we could miss our goal. All our plans should be checked against God’s agenda for his kingdom.

The Lord is saying to the people of Christchurch,
Do not be distracted by the earthquake.
Do not be impressed by the earthquake.
Compared to the power of my Holy Spirit,
the power of the earthquake is nothing.
Do not let the earthquake set your agenda.
My plans and my purpose for Christchurch have not changed.
My people should be shaped by my word and my Spirit
Commit yourself to obeying my will
and fulfilling my purposes
and you will see the Kingdom of God revealed.
Warning events are a sign that the spiritual climate is heating up. Herod responded to the wise men by killing all the baby boys living in Bethlehem. The enemy knew that Jesus was important, but did not understand how, so he lashed out wildly. The earthquake is a warning sign. It shows that the enemy is aware that God is up to something here, but does not understand what, so he is striking out with violence. He tried to destroy the central city and the large church buildings, because he assumed that is where God is working, but he is wrong.

God will use an Invisible Army to accomplish his purpose for Christchurch. Many have been called and equipping smaller groups of people all over the city. Most people do not see them, because they are looking in the wrong places. They are hidden to those without the eyes of the Spirit, but they will be ready when God decides to move. The earthquakes will make them stronger, so the enemy’s plans have backfired.

The enemy has always been afraid of what God is doing in Christchurch. In the early days, he used deception and manipulation to fight back, but now he is really scared, because he senses the time of fulfilment is close. We do not need to be afraid, but should press into God’s purposes, knowing that the time when the glory of the kingdom of god will fill the earth is near.

This complete series is at Causes of Christchurch Earthquake.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Discerning Seasons (7) - Remnant Rising

When the tipping point is passed, the forces of evil are impressed by their numbers and assume they are winning. They do get to work more evil on earth, but they are still losing. They can never win the larger battle, because Jesus won a complete victory on the cross, and the Holy Spirit is at work to make it a reality in history. Nothing that happens on earth, now or in the future, can nullify the victory of the cross. Getting the numbers on earth enables the power of darkness work more evil in the world, but it does not prevent God from accomplishing his purposes.

God has infinite power and wisdom, so he does not depend on numbers to accomplish his purposes. He will often choose to work with a small, overwhelmed group of people, so that his glory can be revealed through them. All he needs is a few people:

  • seeking his Kingdom first;
  • listening to the Holy Spirit;
  • bound together by love;
  • willing to take up the cross;
  • and follow Jesus.
A small of committed remnant, working with the Holy Spirit, can defeat a large array of opposing power.

When the tipping point is passed and the world is flooded with evil, God raises a remnant. They will be in the world, so they will not escape the pain, but by standing together, they will rise above it to do God’s work. He can accomplish more through a small committed than the forces of evil can accomplish with a free hand.
  • Moses stood alone on the shore with his hand stretched over the sea, and God destroyed chariots and horses of the mighty Egyptian Pharaoh (Ex 14:27-28).

  • Gideon defeated a Midianite multitude with 300 dedicated men (Judges 7:7).

  • David achieved great victories with 30 might men (1 Sam 23).

  • Elijah and the Holy Spirit defeated an army Arameans (2 Kings 6:18-20).

  • When the loyal followers of Jesus had been hiding behind locked doors, Peter preached in the power of the Holy Spirit and three thousand people came to faith in Jesus (Acts 2:41).

  • Peter and John were thrown into jail by the temple authorities, but the Holy Spirit brought another two thousand into the Kingdom of God.

Each of these victories came at a time when God’s people seemed to be overwhelmed. The remnant often suffered greatly, but because they stood together, and walked with the Holy Spirit, God was able to accomplish his purposes through them.

On several occasions, God got things underway with a woman serving or praying alone.
  • God used a young girl called Miriam hiding in a swamp (Ex 2:7) to save Moses who rose to deliver all the children of Israel and bring then under God’s covenant.

  • Hannah cried out of her bitterness for a son whom she dedicated to the Lord (1 Sam 1:1-11). God used her to raise up Samuel, who released David, who defeated the enemies of Israel.

  • The prayers of the prophetess called Anna opened the way for God to send redemption through Jesus (Luke 2:36-38).

The remnant is often starts off invisible, hidden on the edges of society and away from the corridors of power.
  • David started his ministry in a cave called Adullum, surrounded by the distressed and the discontented (1 Sam 22:1-2).

  • Jesus began his ministry in Galilee away from the distractions and power plays of Jerusalem.

The remnant does not confront evil head on, but works quietly in hidden places. By remaining out of sight for a time, it gains time to develop and grow. The forces of evil are obsessed with hierarchy and power, so they concentrate their attention on the places of power and privilege where their authority is growing. They will not notice the move of God that is gathering strength in the shadows until it is too late. By the time that they notice the remnant that the Holy Spirit has equipped, it will have multiplied out to become an unstoppable force.
The LORD Almighty has sworn,
Surely, as I have planned, so it will be,
and as I have purposed, so it will happen.
This is the plan determined for the whole world;
this is the hand stretched out over all nations.
For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him?
His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back (Is 14:24, 26,27)?
The Lord’s hand is stretched over the nations. He will accomplish his purposes and nothing can thwart him. A season when he appears to be pushed out of the world often comes just before the Holy Spirit move in power to reveal his glory.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Discerning Seasons (6) - Corporate Spiritual Strongholds

I have just realised that when I wrote the article called Tipping Point in the series on Discerning Seasons, I left out this important category. So here it is. The full article can be found at Discerning Seasons.

Christians with authority in the secular world can amplify God’s authority in their culture by submitting to the Holy Spirit. The reverse is true. The forces of evil can leverage their authority in a similar way by building corporate spiritual strongholds.

When the people with power in a society all begin to believe a lie, it seeps into the hearts and minds of those who submit to their authority. The lie becomes a corporate mental stronghold affecting everyone living. The lie could be a religious belief, a negative attitude about themselves or bad attitude to other people.

A corporate mental stronghold is a false idea that takes hold in a culture so that it is accepted by everyone in the area. When demonic powers can attach themselves to the lie that is accepted everywhere in a culture, they can establish a corporate spiritual stronghold. Everyone who submits to the powers of the city or nation open themselves to the same spirits.

Paul referred to spiritual powers that have a corporate spiritual stronghold over a city or nation “principalities and powers”. By concentrating on a spiritual weakness that pervades a culture, these spiritual forces can concentrate their power and amplify their authority. The spirits that have control over political and religious leaders can gain huge authority, if the people submitting to these leaders have similar attitudes and beliefs. (Peter Wagner describes a corporate spiritual stronghold that has taken hold in Japan.)

Even though there are many Christians in the society, the principalities and powers have amplified their authority by controlling the people with political or religious power.

Corporate spiritual strongholds are really difficult to beat.
  • The political and religious powers have given the spirits permission
    to be there. Christians can pray and bind the spirits, but as soon as
    they turn their back, the people with authority effectively “pull
    rank” and give them permission to return.

  • Some Christians have been seriously harmed when engaging in
    spiritual warfare against principalities and powers that have been
    given permission to be there by people with greater authority.

  • When new people move into positions of authority, they are quickly
    overwhelmed by the spiritual forces and begin to go along. This is why
    democratic change often fails. The newly elected government is soon
    dominated by the same spirits, so nothing changes. (Think Obama).

Corporate spiritual strongholds are there with permission of political
or religious leaders, so these leaders will have to be kicked out or
changed before the stronghold can be removed. The key to changing the
spiritual situation is changing the people with authority.
  • Paul urged Christians to pray for kings and people in authority,
    so they would change their hearts and boot out the principalities and
    powers (1 Tim 2:2).

  • Jesus urged those who are preaching the gospel to seek out the
    person of influence in a town (Matt 10:11).

  • The prophet Daniel changed the spiritual climate in Babylon when
    the kings acknowledged his wisdom and spiritual authority.

  • When the people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s preaching and
    repented, the king of Nineveh also shook himself free.

  • Influencing the authorities that keep corporate spiritual
    strongholds in place is an important part of the prophetic minsitry.

If the corporate stronghold is really strong and those with authority
in the society are staunch in their support, the only solution might be a Destructive
that sweeps them away. For example, when the Kings of
Babylon got too hard, God allowed the Medes and Persians to destroy them.
Daniel gained influence with Cyrus the Mede (Dan 6) and the he submitted
to God. A destructive judgment will be God’s last resort, because it is
hard to avoid collateral damage.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Cause of the Christchurch Earthquake (7) - Warning Event

The Christchurch earthquakes were a Warning Event. The Christian influence in New Zealand has declined rapidly in recent years, so it is too late for a Shaking Judgment. God’s authority has been squeezed out, so he has much less influence on what happens here. The earthquake was not sent by God, but it was a sign that we are now getting close to the tipping point. Those who can discern the times will understand that the forces of evil were showing off their recently gained authority.

The effects of the earthquake were constrained, because God still had sufficient authority in New Zealand to clip their wings. That is why no one was killed and few were seriously injured by the first earthquake. God limited its effects.
The number of deaths in the second earthquake was relative low given the huge damage to buildings. At 12.51pm when the quake struck, many city workers had gone out of their high rises to get their lunch.

Although many tourists were in the cathedral, before it collapsed, they all escaped. This is because God has more authority in the cathedral than elsewhere, due to the faith of the people controlling it and the many prayers offered there.

If Jesus were here, he would say that Christchurch is no more sinful than any other city in New Zealand, but if the people of this nation continue on the current path and do not turn back to God, the influence of evil will continue to expand until we cross the tipping point. The earthquake is a sign of what the forces of evil could do, if they get sufficient authority to have a free hand.

New Zealand is in the process of forgetting God. It is not that people are hostile, but more that they have lost interest, because being a Christian no longer seems like a very attractive option. Unfortunately, this gradual forgetting has a serious consequence. This world is engulfed in a spiritual war. When a society ignores God, it loses his protection and become vulnerable to evil attack. We have casually allowed evil to make a home in our society and the cracks in our foundations are now being exposed.

As more and more people choose to ignore God, his ability to protect us is being diminished. As the number of people of faith declines, the evil has greater freedom to work. There may still be sufficient residual faith in Christchurch to restrain the worst of evil, but, if the decline in faith continues, the last restraints on evil will gradually fall away.

This should not seem strange. When the prodigal son left his father’s house, he lost the provision of his father.

The younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything (Luke 15:13-16).
The prodigal son was in danger of starting to death, but he was not starving because his father was weak or bad. The father was still wealthy and he still loved his son, but he was powerless to help his son, because the son had freely chosen to leave his father’s house and had wasted the money that the father had given to him. He was responsible for his situation and could not blame his father. In the same way, when a city that shuts out God, it eventually loses his protection. It is not that God has lost his power or stops caring. He just cannot protection people who have rejected him and placed themselves outside the scope of his protection.

A man involved organising disaster relief noted that people are shocked that it could happen here. He said that his staff working round the world on disaster recovery see it as normal and suggested that we need to start seeing the world the same way. That raises a question. Why is disaster normal in other countries, but abnormal here. If we are losing God’s blessing and protection by rejecting him, then disaster could become normal here too. If that is the situation, we should be getting prepared.

Future Fulfilment
Being predictable and uncreative, the forces of evil will do more of the same when they get the chance. Unless there is a change in our spiritual situation, we can expect to see serious earthquakes striking in the night in other parts of New Zealand. However, there will be a big difference. If we cross the tipping point, God will no longer be able to restrain the principalities and powers. Fuller freedom will allow them to wreak far greater death and destruction.

I do not know when we will reach the tipping point. Spiritual climates change slowly, so it may be a number of years before we see this warning event fulfilled. Or the Church might rise up and cut off its fulfilment, by preaching the gospel in power. If the number of Christians increases significantly, God’s authority in New Zealand will be expanded, and the principalities and powers will be squeezed out. That is one of the purposes of Warning Events. By overstepping the mark, the powers of evil often stir up the church to push back against them.

The second serious earthquake was a continuation of the previous warning event. The repetition of the earthquake is interesting. When interpreting warning dreams, Joseph said that the doubling of a dream means that its fulfilment is “certain and soon” (Gen 41:32). I presume that the same principle applies to Warning Events. The doubling of the earthquake emphasises the warning and confirms that we will be at the tipping point soon.

This full series is at Causes of Christchurch Earthquakes.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Cause of the Christchurch Earthquake (6) - Work of the Devil

The broken roads and past smashed houses of Christchurch do not look like God’s handiwork. The destruction looks much more like the deeds of a destroyer. More accurately, it looks like a destroyer lashing out violently, but being cramped up an unable to strike out with full force.

The signs of a destroyer is evident everywhere. The only destroyers in the scriptures are the devil and his evil spiritual forces.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).
In John’s Revelation, the devil was called Destroyer.
They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon (Rev 9:11).
Abaddon and Apollyon both mean “Destroyer”. Both names mean Destroyer.

In one sense, all earthquakes are caused by the devil, because they are the consequence of the fall. The emergence of human sin had a huge, as it placed the earth under a curse.
Cursed is the ground because of you (Gen 3:17).
This curse gave the devil authority to mess with God’s beautiful creation. He went to work with a vengeance and released terrible destruction on earth. The way it functions was totally changed. Earthquakes, floods, droughts, tsunamis, tornados and volcanoes appeared on earth for the first time. Animals, insects and plants changed into dangerous forms that had not existed when the world was good. Bacteria and viruses the cause sickness and disease emerged and began to spread. All these were the work of the devil.

Creation Groaning
The fall changed God’s good earth into a place in which earthquakes, volcanoes, storms and droughts are normal. It became a dangerous place to live.

Paul describes the effect on creation in his letter to the Romans.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Rom 8:19-21).
Creation was subjected to futility by the horrendous effects of the fall, and up till the time of Paul was groaning under the strain. However, Paul has a message of hope for creation. The children of God revealed is not a reference to the second coming, but to those who are called by Jesus coming to faith in him.

As more and more people are born again, creation will be liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the same glorious freedom as those who follow Jesus. As increasing numbers of people submit to Jesus, the Holy Spirit is released to restore creation. As the authority of God on earth expands, the effects of the fall are pushed back and the decay of creation is reversed.

The opposite is also true. If the gospel goes backwards and the number of people obeying God declines, creation goes back under bondage to decay. If the Holy Spirit is squeezed out of society, the groaning of creation increases. Therefore, when a nation rejects God, the severity of earthquakes is like to increase.

Direct Intervention
The devil is not a deist. He did not mess up the world and then sit back to watch what happens. Just as God is active to work all things for good, the devil is active in the world to work things for evil. He intervenes in the world to do harm whenever he gets the opportunity.
Our struggle is ...against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12).
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8).
The devil is always active, looking for ways to destroy God’s people. He often uses other people, as when Saul attempted to kill David. At other times, he uses animals, as when a lion and a bear in attempt to destroy David as a boy. At other times he uses the forces of nature. The devil and his evil powers have far more power to work through nature than most Western Christians understand. The Bible does not highlight this fact, because the Holy Spirit does not want to give him glory, but there are hints for those who search carefully.
  1. Pharaoh’s magicians had power to manipulate nature. They were able to kill the fish in the rivers and make it smell. They made frogs come up out of the rivers and spread over the land (Ex 7:22; 8:6).

  2. Satan caused Job’s sheep and their shepherds to be destroyed when “The fire of God” that fell from the sky (Job 1:16). “Fire of God” is a figurative expression used to describe a calamity in the same way that we speak of an “Act of God”. The sheep may have been struck by lightning, but given the scale of the losses, it is more likely that the sheep were killed by some kind of volcanic activity.

  3. Satan caused a “mighty wind from the desert” that struck a house and killed Job’s sons and daughters (Job 1:18). This event was not the wind doing what the wind does. What appeared to be an act of nature was actually the work of the devil.

  4. Jesus disciples were nearly killed twice by storms on the Sea of Galilee. One storm began when Jesus was asleep and less active in resisting evil. The meaning of words used in the gospel to describe this event is partly lost in translation. Mark describes it as a “great storm of wind” (Mark 4:37). Matthew says the boat was being “tormented” by the waves and that the wind was “hostile” (Matt 14:24) He used the word “shaking”, which is also the word for earthquake. Luke used the word for a “hurricane” and says that their lives were in jeopardy and they were in danger of being “destroyed” (Luke 8:22). These were experienced sailors, but they were filled with terror. The extreme words suggest that this was not ordinary wind, but at terrible storm whipped up by the devil in order to kill Jesus and his embryonic church.

  5. Paul was almost destroyed by a “violent battering storm” on the Mediterranean Ocean (Acts 27:18).

Many earthquakes are just the usual working of fallen creation. However sometimes the Devil releases an earthquake to do harm in a place that he hates. The evil spirits are not strong enough to create a huge earthquake, but they do have enough power to release and earthquake in fault where pressure has built up. They determine the timing and direction of the quake to do as much evil as possible.

Purpose for Christchurch
The forces of evil hate Christchurch, and not just because of its name. The reason is that God is building his Kingdom and Christchurch has a special role in his plan. The kingdom of God will emerge in a unique way in this city and will shine as bright light for the nations.

Christchurch will be a centre from which the Kingdom of God is exported. The city will demonstrate a model of the kingdom that can be copied in other nations that turn back to God. The revelation of the Kingdom that emerges in Christchurch will be copied all over the world, as nations see what God had done and want it for themselves. Christchurch will have a key role in displaying the glory of the kingdom. The devil would like to destroy Christchurch to prevent this from happening. He has not succeeded, but the earthquakes are a sign of what he would like to do.