Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gifts and Governance

Eph 4:9-16 is an important passage about leadership in the church. Christians have tended to apply it to three different situations.

1. Management
Modern churches will often have a large paid staff. Someone will have to take responsibility for managing this team of people and organising their activities. This chief executive role is usually taken by the pastor. Eph 4 has nothing to do with this rule, because the church in Ephesus that Paul was writing to did not have a full-time professional staff.

2. Governance
Modern church control some very large and expensive assets. The governance of these assets will be important.

3. Growing the Body of Christ
Ephesians 4 explains how a body of people is built up and grows into the fullness of Christ. It is about people being joined and linked together through strong relationships. It is about the body being strong as each part does what God has equipped it to do.

The ascensions gifts have nothing to do with staff management or church governance. Applying them in that context produces confusion.

The gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers can only find their fulfilment in a body of believers that is bound together by love.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Multicultural Society

Modern media, the internet and migration are causing peoples and ideas to spread rapidly. Cultures are becoming increasingly diverse. Multicultural society is the modern reality left to its natural course.

Unfortunately, a society needs a common culture to be strong and resilient. A multicultural society will eventually tear itself apart, as different cultural groups struggle for dominance of their culture. We can see the beginnings of these struggles in the battle over School Prayer in the US, wearing the burqua in France, and Bible in Schools in NZ.

A multicultural society can only survive, if a powerful group can impose order upon it, and the rest of society agrees to go along. For the Christendom period, the church took this role. It imposed uniformity of thought and culture throughout Western Europe. The secular state has now taken over this role of imposing uniformity on society. Whereas the church imposed a religious culture, the state applies a liberal secular culture.

The state will eventually fail in this role, as the pressure of multiculturalism is to strong. Society will break down into numerous small communities each different from the rest, but with a common culture. The trend in the world is away from a large amorphous uniform society towards diversity. The state cannot hold back this tide.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Second Heaven

A commenter called “God Is” has left the following comment on my post Second Heaven.

Be not confused, their are at least three heavens and they are all mentioned in the Bible.
1st heaven is the earthly domain,
2nd heaven is mentioned in Ephesians 6:12 and in Daniel 10th chapter where his prayers were held up in the second heaven and the arch angel Gabriel was sent to get the prayer of Daniel through due to the Prince of Persia's evil acts.
If there were no second heaven, God would simply mention 1st and 2nd heaven and not even mention a third.
I agree with this commentator that that scriptures refer to at least three heavens. Maybe there are more, but we are not told. Moreover, the scriptures do not explain clearly what the three are, so we probably do not need to know.

The first heaven could be the sky that we see on earth. Or it could be the highest heaven where God dwell.

We do know that the third heaven is Paradise, which is the dwelling place of the Christian dead.
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise (2 Cor 12:2-4).
As I posted, paradise is the place where Jesus and the thief went after they died (Luke 23:43). If there is a third heaven, there must be a second heaven too, but we actually know very little about the way that heaven is structured. We must be careful building up a doctrine of several heavens, because we just do not know enough. If God wanted us to have this understanding, he would have got Paul to tell us more about what he saw, but he did not. We must be careful not to go beyond what God has given us.

The scriptures never mention the “second heaven”, so should be careful about saying that we know what it is. My commenter claims that the second heaven is described in Ephesians 6:12 and in Daniel 10, but that is not correct. These verses do not mention “the second heaven”, so the commenter is making an assumption from context.

My real concern is the widespread belief among many Christians that the devil controls the second heaven and that our prayers have to pass through the second heaven to get to God in the third heaven. They allege that our prayers are not answered, because the devil prevents them from getting through to God. They suggest that God sometime establishes an “open heaven”, which means that the devil cannot prevent prayers from getting through.

This belief treats the second heaven as if it were a physical barrier between earth and God. This is odd, because the heavens are a spiritual reality. Prayers are a spiritual entity which are not constrained by physical barriers. Likewise the authority of that was held by the devil was spiritual authority. Physical barriers cannot separate us from God. It is spiritual barriers that we should really worry about.

We know that Satan had a place in the councils of God during in Job’s time (Job 1:6). He could go into God’s presence and accuse the people of God. The cross destroyed that right and he lost his place in heaven. Jesus saw him falling from the heavens (Luke 10:18). Satan was thrown out of heaven (Rev 12:7-10). He is a cheat and will still try to attack Christians. His angels can oppose the angels of God, but the idea that he can control our access to God through prayer is nonsense.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Receiving a Prophetic Word

Prophets are not spiritual automatons. God speaks to a prophet as a whole person. A vision from God has to be perceived in the prophet’s imagination. Words from God have to pass into the mind, because that where humans process all information. These words from God have to pass into the memory, so the prophet can write them down or speak them later. The prophet must judge with their will whether the word is from the Spirit and chose whether they will speak it. Some prophets actually feel what God is feeling (Jer 9:1).

Therefore, it is not at matter of rejecting thoughts, feeling and imagination, as that would be impossible. Feelings, thoughts and imaginations are not bad, per se. It is an issue of avoiding my thoughts, my feeling, my imaginations and accepting God’s thoughts, God’s feelings and Gods imaginations.

The flesh is the part of our mind, memory, emotions and imagination that is still corrupted by sin. The problems is that the flesh is not in a separate box, distict from the part of the mind, memory, and emotions that have been made new in Jesus by the Spirit. They are intertwined.

A prophet must learn to distinguish between thoughts and feelings that come from the Spirit and those that from you flesh (corrupted mind, emotions, etc.) That is the key to being a reliable prophet. The issue is not whether we have received a feeling or a thought, but whether it comes from God. That is much harder than just rejecting all thoughts and feelings.

Some will say that they will only receive things that come through their spirit, but that is easier said than done. The human spirit is neutral like an antennae. If it is born again it can receive the Spirit of God, but if corrupted, it can pick up the activity of demons, so the fact that something comes through our spirit, does not mean it is from the Holy Spirit. The human spirit is part of the human, so it cannot be discerned. What we can discern is the Spirit of God speaking. The renewed spirit loves to hear his voice and hums when it hears it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


The Greeks voted for horrible pain over terrible pain, with no real idea of which would be worse.

The big problem for the Greek people is unemployment. The unemployment rate reached 22.6 percent for the March 2012 quarter. However, for youth the rate is 52.7 percent. The female rate is 60.4 percent.

More than a million people are not working, and consequently not producing. This is a huge burden any economy.

A massive number of jobs need to be created, but in all the debate about sovereign debt, commentators have been lost sight of this problem.

In thinking about this problem, we must remember a fundamental principle.

  • Government cannot create jobs
  • Employers create jobs
Where are the employers who will create a million jobs in Greece?

The Greek government cannot do it. Public service jobs have been padded for years, so jobs will be disappearing, not being created. (In tough times, it is cheaper to pay the unemployment rate than to public service salaries to people who have not real work to do).

The European Central Bank cannot create jobs in Greece.
Angela Merkel cannot create jobs in Greece.
Barack Obama cannot create jobs in Greece.

Greece needs employers to create a million on jobs. I do not know where these employers will come from.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hungry in Christchurch

In his sermon of the week, Bill Johnson spoke about hunger. He suggested that we get hungry by eating.

He also spoke of remaining hungry while coming into abundance of blessing. Our challenge is remain hungry while being full of the Spirit.

  • Hunger illustrates humility.
  • Hunger releases a capacity to dream.
  • Hunger cause people to move outside the place of safety.
The Lord is releasing a gift of hunger.
  • The gift of hunger is essential for the next season.
  • The gift of hunger is a gift for people on whom he will pour out a blessing that is bigger than anything has been know before.
  • The gift of hunger allows us to receive the blessing of the Lord, while remaining in the right place.
Bill quoted Ps 107:33-37.
33 He turns rivers into a wilderness,
And the springs of water into dry ground;
34 A fruitful land into barrenness,
For the wickedness of those who dwell in it.
Wickedness causes rivers to run dry and fruitful land becomes a wilderness. The key to understanding this is Luke 1:53.
He has filled the hungry with good things.
but has sent the rich away empty handed.
It is not that God dislikes the rich. He cannot bless those who have become satisfied with what they have and do not remain humble. He takes those who have been blessed and returns them to a place of need, so they can re-discover the source of their blessing, which is hunger. If blessing has caused us to wander he, out of mercy, removes the blessing, so that we will return to the source of our strength.

God blesses those who become hungry. In Psalm 107:35-37 this had happened.
35 He turns a wilderness into pools of water,
And dry land into watersprings.
36 There He makes the hungry dwell,
That they may establish a city for a dwelling place,
37 And sow fields and plant vineyards,
That they may yield a fruitful harvest.
Bill said that Psalm 107:36 is a prophetic decree for this generation.
36 There He makes the hungry dwell,
That they may establish a city for a dwelling place.
The hungry are given the unique privilege of establishing a city.
God is raising up companies of people who cry our constantly, “God, save my city!”
  • The don’t just want individuals saved, they want the systems of the city saved.
  • The want the way people do life to change.
  • They want kingdom values to permeate every aspect of life.
  • They want all interactions, including relationships, business, education impacted by the Spirit.
  • They want everything to be impacted by his divine order.
God will entrust the destiny of the city to the hungry.
  • He wants the hungry to define the DNA of the city.
  • The foundational values will be defined by those who have remained humble, kept connected with the Spirit and the purposes of God.
  • He wants the heart of the city to be shaped by those who have not become complacent and satisfied with what they obtained.
  • He wants the nature of cities defined by hungry people.
  • God will release favour and increase to the hungry.
  • Their voice will impact the destiny of cities.
  • Hungry people change the environment they live in.
The Lord is releasing a grace for remaining hungry while being blessed.

When I heard Bill Johnson’s message, I was stunned, because I remembered a description of the first communion service held when the first English settlers arrived in Christchurch in December 1850. The first ships had arrived at the Port of Lyttleton, but the settlers had not travelled over the hills to the site of the new city. On the Sunday, the settlers met in the second storey of a warehouse on Norwich Quay. The passengers, who had climbed upstairs on a ladder, sat on planks on packing cases. Here is the description of the event recorded in “Canterbury Sketches: Life from Early Days”.
The Psalm for the day, the 22nd, was wonderfully applicable to us. These are the verses I refer to, "And there he setteth the hungry that they may find them a city to dwell in; that they may plant their fruits and increase. He blesseth them so that they multiply exceedingly and suffereth not their cattle to decrease." It seemed as if the Almighty had given us His blessing on our new life and may we not say on looking back through the long vista of years, that He has blessed many of us abundantly, and made us a prosperous and happy people?
The lectionary reading for that Sunday was Psalm 107 and the reader at the service read the same verses about the hungry establishing the city. So verse 36 is not just a prophecy for our generation, but a prophecy for the city of Christchurch.

The city has been devastated by the earthquake and left empty and barren. God is promising that the future of the city will not be shaped by powerful people who have forgotten him.

The future of the city will be shaped by the hungry. Their voice will have impact on the destiny of the city.

God is promising that the hungry will establish the city. He will bless them and their number will be greatly increased.
He makes the hungry dwell there,
that they may establish a city for a dwelling place.
They sowed.. and planted…
that yielded a fruitful harvest;
he blessed them,
and their numbers greatly increased.
The kingdom of God will be established in Christchurch through people who are hungry for the Spirit and a revelation of the glory of God.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sound Banking System (5) Stability

This banking system can operate without any need for government regulation or political interference. There is no role for governments in a sound banking system.

Inflation would disappear because political powers would no longer control and manipulate the currency in circulation. Banks would not be able to manipulate their reserves, because people would refuse to deposit money with banks that moved depositors’ money onto their balance sheets. Once this ability is gone, monetary inflation is not possible, so price inflation would disappear. Instead, prices should decline slowly over time, as technological advances make producers more productive. Falling prices make all consumers in the economy better off.

Banks would not able to expand lending to fund asset bubbles. Once investment bubbles are constrained, the bank crashes that usually follow will cease.

This full series can be found at sound banking system.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sound Banking System (4) Loan Brokerage

2. Loan Brokerage Banks
The second type of bank provides a loan brokerage service. These banks would match the savings of depositors who want to lend with people who want to borrow. Each loan would be matched with a deposit or group of deposits for the same term. Every deposit received and every loan made would have a timestamp. The Loan Brokerage Bank would have to match every loan for a particular term with equivalent deposits for the same term.

Interest rates for the various terms would adjust until the supply of deposits matched the demand for loans for each possible term. The bank would charges either a fee or a margin on the interest rate to cover the cost of providing this service. Sometimes the bank will combine a number of deposits together to make up a large loan. This would be part of the brokerage service.

Loan brokerage banks would usually take responsibility for assessing the credit-worthiness of potential borrowers and the viability of the projects for which they are borrowing. If the bank agrees to take responsibility for any bad debts or fraud that may occur, the cost of this service would be built into the bank's charges. Different banks would offer different options with different levels of service.

Brokerage Banks would provide a re-financing service for people who have placed money in a bank for a fixed term. The bank would have been lent the money out to another person for the same term. If the depositor’s situation changes and they need the money, they may want to withdraw the deposit early. This would be possible, but there may be a cost. The bank would have to be able to replace the money with a deposit for the same term from a new lender, but it would have to charge a fee to cover the work involved in organising a replacement lender. If the market interest rate had fallen, the first lender may have to cover the interest differential for the rest of the term. This cost should be relatively small, as in a sound financial system interest rates would tend to be very stable.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sound Banking System (3) No Interest

Banks that are operating according to this principle would not be able to lend out money, because they do not own it. This means that they would not be able to pay interest on money deposited with them. To cover the costs of providing their services, transaction banks would need to charge a service fee. Depositors would look for banks that provide the best security and service for the most reasonable fee. Banks that provide better security and a wider range of transactions would be able to charge more. However, bank fees would be quite small. People would be willing to pay the price for a secure and reliable banking system.

Depositing money on call would become less attractive option, because deposits would face bank charges, but no interest. To avoid this problem, people would only deposit money on call, if they expect to use it immediately. If they do not want to use the money immediately, they would be better to deposit it at loan bank for a fixed term (even if only a few days) so it can be lent out and to earn interest.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Sound Banking System (2) Principle

The important principle underlining a sound banking system is that the money in a bank does not belong to the bank. A transaction bank is storing the property of someone else, in the same way as warehouse. A warehouse owner keeps an inventory of everything that is stored in his warehouse. He records the identity and contact details of the owner of each item. He can even transfer the ownership of an item to another person, if instructed to do so by the original owner. However, the recording of assets in his care is kept separate from his own asset register. He can treat the warehouse as his asset, but he must not record the furniture given into his care as his property.

Transaction banks would operate in the same way. They would keep an inventory of all the money being stored and the identity of its owners. These records must be separate from the bank’s own financial accounts. Money stored must not creep onto the bank’s asset register.

The money deposited in a transaction bank is owned by the person who deposited it, not by the bank. This is a biblical principle.

If a man gives his neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor's house, the thief, if he is caught, must pay back double. But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges to determine whether he has laid his hands on the other man's property…. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to his neighbor (Ex 22:7-9).
When the goods entrusted to person another for safekeeping go missing, that person is accountable for the loss. If the thief is found, the thief must make restitution, but if not, the person caring for the property must make restitution to the owner. In God’s eyes, neglect of property given for safekeeping is the same as theft.

The Bible describes the valuables presented for safekeeping as the “property” of the depositor, even when they are in the house of the other person. This confirms the principle that the ownership of property does not transfer to person who takes it for safekeeping. The owners of property retain their ownership, until they sell the goods. This biblical principle applies to banking. When a bank treats money deposited with it for safekeeping as its own asset, it has misappropriated something that belongs to another. It has “laid its hands on the other man’s property”.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Sound Banking System (1)

A sound banking system would have two types of bank. Each one would provide a specific type of bank account.

  • Transaction Facilitation
  • Loan brokerage
I will describe these two types of bank in the next few posts.

1. Transaction Banks
Transactions banks would offer a true warehouse service for people wanting an account to manage their daily financial transactions. These banks would record valid money claims and execute transactions between clients. Some might use paper records while others would use computers. It would not matter how transactions are recorded, as long as all money claims and transactions are recorded accurately.

When a person deposits twenty dollars in a bank, the bank would increase the value of that person’s account by twenty dollars. If the person withdraws five dollars, the bank would reduce that person’s account by five dollars.

If someone instructs the bank to pay ten dollars to another person, the bank would reduce that person’s account by ten dollars, and increase the recipients account by ten dollars.

If the person being paid records his money transactions at another bank, the first bank would instruct that person’s bank to increase the recipient’s account by ten dollars. The second bank would be willing to do this, provided the first bank confirms that it has already reduced the account of the person making the payment by ten dollars.

The banks do not need to exchange anything, as they are simply recording the fact that one person has ten dollars more than they had before, and the other has ten dollars less than they had before. It does not matter which banks record these changes, provided that every time one person’s account is increased, another person’s account is decreased by the same amount.

To sustain their business, transaction banks would have to prove to their customers that their records were accurate. They would do this by opening their records up to anyone who wanted to check. Auditors would be able to look at what the bank is doing and confirm that they are not cheating those who trust them. All banks would watch each other carefully. If one could expose cheating by another, it could eliminate a competitor and increase its market share.

The full series can be found at Sound Banking System.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Snow in Christchurch

Snow fell in Christchurch yesterday. Having a decent snowfall two years in a row is quite unusual for us.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Crane Economics

This a view of the Christchurch CBD from the place where I work. Virtually every high rise building has a crane towering beside it.

Cranes on the horizon are usually a sign of a building boom, but not here. These cranes are working to demolish buildings that were damaged by in the earthquake and are too costly to repair. The red excavator is will demolish a building in a couple of weeks. When the demolitions are complete, there will be no tall building left in the centre of the city.

The demolition and rebuilding of office towers will contribute to the short-term stimulation of the economy, because most of the re-insurance money is coming from the United States and Europe (insurance take-up is very high here). However, after five years of demolishing and rebuilding, the capital stock will be not be much greater than it was before the earthquake, so productivity will not have increased at all. We will have run a long way to get back to the place where we were before.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Community-based Banking (15) Banking System

Under the threat of competition from sound community-based banks, the existing commercial banks might be forced to change their way of operating. They would have to shift from holding assets and liabilities to keeping records of debts and payments. Their system already has an electronic system for recording transactions. They just need to get the deposits off their balance sheets.

These banks would begin operating like a share registry. The operator of the registry does not record the shares as assets or liabilities on their balance sheet. They simply record changes of ownership of shares.

In the same way, a warehouse owner keeps a list of things stored and who owns them. This will change over time. In some cases, the things stored will be the same, but the owner will change. A key role of a warehouse operator is to keep reliable records. This is the best model for banking. If customers demand this type of banking service, all banks would have to provide it.

On the other hand, if the reliability of Christian record-keepers is accepted throughout their society, other currencies will gradually be squeezed out and the world system will gradually become redundant. Transactions with the world system would become less frequent.

This full series is at Community Banks

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Community-based Banking (14) Long Distance Transactions

Apostles will have links with apostles in other nations. They will also be receiving funding from their sending churches. This will be enable them to arrange transfers between people living in different nations. The money will not be sent across boarders using the traditional methods. Apostles will use a method, more akin to the transfer (halawa) systems that have widespread use in the Middle East and Asia. When someone want to make a payment in their home country, the apostle will take their local money. They will not send it to the desired recipient, but keep it for themselves. Instead, they will get someone in their sending church to credit the desired amount with the record-keeper account used by the specified recipient.

This process enables the a person in the apostles country to make a payment to someone in the apostles home country. At the same time, the home church transfers support funding to the apostle in the country they have been sent to. These two transfers take place without any money or gold having to cross the border. This is a more secure process, because the money cannot be stolen on the way. In times of persecution, it will allow transfers to take place, without a totalitarian being able to prevent the transfer or steal the money.

The amounts going each way would not need to be equal. Different amounts could go each way. The apostle and the person in the sending country would keep a record of amounts transferred each way. Frome time to time, the person in the home country would visit the apostle or the apostle would return to their home country for a break, or to encourage the people left behind. The two people would use their times together to settle the differences between the transfers one way and transfers the other way.

This process requires trust between the person in each country. Apostles will have a network of people that they trust in various countries. This network could arrange a wide variety of transfers need to support international trade and international giving. If trust broke down, this process would become unworkable. The only alternative in time of turmoil would recourse to transfers of gold or other precious metals. Gold money function when trust has broken down, but is very risky, as anything that stores value can be stolen while it is being moved from place to place.

An apostle might charge a small fee for providing this service. This would contribute to the support of their ministry. When the business grew in side, they apostle would arrange for one of the deacons in the new church to take responsibility for managing the money transfer work. The deacon would have proved that they can be trusted with money during their work with the poor. However, although the deacon would be managing the business, it would still be relying on the trust being the apostles and colleagues in their sending church.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Community-based Banking (13) World System

Christian record-keepers in a community-based financial system would need to deal with the financial system of the world. People would only be able to buy outside the community, if someone from the community selling stuff out. If a trader sells stuff for any other currency, they would bring it to a record keeper in their community and exchange it for a positive balance in their communities money system. The record-keeper would hold the other money some other person in their community wants to buy something that has to be paid for with that currency.

The trader would have to specify an exchange rate between the community money and the world’s currency. The best way to arrive at this would be to sell any world money they receive to the highest bidder in their community to determine the rate of exchange rate that should prevail. This means that the community would only be able buy from outside their community, if others are selling stuff outside of the community.

Record-keepers who manage currency exchange may need to hold some reserves of the world’s, so that dollars would be available when people in the community wanting to make a purchase from someone in the world system. Managing these reserves would be a challenge. The exchange rate between the community and the world would have to adjusted to ensure that demand for these reserves did not become too great.

The best way to handle reserves of other currencies might be to establish a company or trust to hold them. This would provide more security for record-keepers in times of persecution, as the reserves could not be traced to one person. The company might hold some cash and it could operate a credit card. This would allow them to do business in the world when people wanted to undertake these transactions.

In really troubled times, it might not be possible to trade with the world, so people might have to limit themselves to trading with the wider Christian community (Hundreds and Thousands). This would reduce the division of labour and could decrease wealth.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Community-based Banking (12) Security

Notes and coins are a very portable form of information technology. Having information so distributed allows great flexibility, as people can use it anywhere in their community at a time and place that suits them.

A dispersed money system will be essential for survival during a time of persecution. If Christian individuals and churches hold their money in the world’s banking system, the government can easily confiscate it. Money dispersed within communities will be much safer. A record of an obligation to the community cannot be stolen, as it has no value outside the community. If the government steal the money, the community would refuse to acknowledge the obligation.

If money records are stored on a computer network, these records could be dispersed across many computers. If computers are unsafe, the records could be kept on paper or in a notebook.