Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Islamic State (8) Seals of Revelation

The emergence of the Islamic State is taking place in the context of the opening of the Seven Seals of Revelation.

  1. The first seal is the bowmen on a white horse. It represents a resurgence of Islam. This seal kicked off with the Islamic Revolution in Iran 1978. Islam has been advancing powerfully since then all over the world, and will continue to advance. This is part of God’s strategy for a big transition on earth, so American military power will not be able to stop it. The Islamic State is part of that resurgence. The United States has tripped over this stumbling block several times already, and will stub its toe on Islam again and again.

  2. The second seal released the rider on the red horse, who carries a big sword. This horseman represents civil wars between ethnic groups. This horseman has been at work in many places in the world over the past few decades. The conflict between Sunni and Shia Moslems in Iraq, and Alawite and Moslem in Syria are just the latest examples. The spirit of the Red Horse has been rampant in the Islamic State. Christians, Turkmen and Yazidis and members of many small Moslem sects have been killed by the Islamic State. This is the big sword of the horseman on the Red Horse.

  3. The third horseman rides a black horse and carries scales. It releases an economic crisis, which brings hunger and starvation too much of the world. The violence and destruction of the Islamic State in the oil producing regions of the Middle East will be a major contributor to this crisis.

  4. The fourth horse is pale and sickly. This horseman brings sickness and death. This might be the pestilence that Isaiah promised would damage the Spirit of Assyria.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Islamic State (7) Reshaping the Middle East

The shape of the Middle East is changing. The nationalism that has dominated history for the last few centuries is losing its power. National states are beginning to fragment and fail.

Nationalism is a relatively modern notion. For most of history people belonged to a local community. They surrendered their freedom to a local leader in return for protection. By the end of the 17th century, these small local political units were no longer viable. With the beginning of the industrial revolution, much larger markets were needed to support economic growth. Modern warfare needed a much large economic base to pay and equip a large permanent army. A few hundred soldiers loyal to a local leader were not enough.

Better communication and travel allowed people to expand their range of contacts to a much larger group. All over Europe and North America, the nation state emerged. The principalities and provinces of Germany were united in a single nation. The same thing happened in Italy.

World War 1 and World War 2 were fights to the death between powerful nation states. The wars were fought with all the resources of the nation. Co-opting the wealth and people of the nation allow war on a massive scale.

The season for nation states is already passing. Globalisation has opened a worldwide market that makes national borders redundant. Many of the functions of the state are shifting to larger regional unions. Scotland does not need to be part of Britain, when it can belong to the EU and NATO.

Events in Scotland are sign of the times. This bid for independence failed, but the next will succeed, but that is not the end of it. We will see small groups breaking away from nation states all over the world.

Nationalism has never been as strong in the Moslem world. The lack of a distinction between church and state makes Islam a much more political religion than Christianity. The spiritual leader of Islam was always a political leader too. The nation states established at the end of World War 1 were a creation of the European powers. They were imposed by the European colonialists to protect their economic and religious interests. Local culture and history was ignored. The north eastern border of Jordan extends way up towards Iraq like a land bridge between Syria and Saudi Arabia, so the British could build an oil pipeline from Mosul to Haifa. It now provides a path for the Islamic State to push back to to Jordan.

The artificial nation states created by France and Britain after World War 1 are falling apart. They will be replaced by new powerful players reflecting the dominant principalities and powers.

  1. Iran will continue to be powerful force, as the leader of Shia Moslems. It will continue to be controlled by the Prince of Persia.

  2. The Islamic State will become the leader of Sunni Moslems. The centre of power will shift from Saudi Arabia to the Islamic State. The Islamic State will be controlled by the Assyrian Spirit.

  3. Egypt with 80 million people will continue to be an important player. Isaiah describes the principality and power controlling Egypt as a fly, in contrast to the Assyrian bee (Is 8:18). Whereas the Assyrian spirit stings like a bee, the spiritual power controlling Egypt is attracted to death and disease. Egypt will be a strong influence, but less important as a military power.

The Islamic State is a project to do away with the artificial borders and puppet states created by the Europeans powers. Bombing campaigns by the imperialistic powers will be seen as an attempt to protect their interests and prevent Moslems from establishing their own identity.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Islamic State (6) Military Power

President Obama thinks that he can degrade and ultimately destroy the power of the Islamic State, but he does not understand what he is up against. Military power cannot match spiritual power.

  • He has forced a change of President in Iraq. He assumes that this will unite a state that is being torn apart by conflict between Sunni and Shia Moslems. The sword of the Red Horse will prevent that from happening.

  • He plans to arm moderate Syrians to fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Unfortunately, there are not enough moderate Syrians to make that happen. The Islamic State will gain control of the Sunni part of the population. President Assad’s government may hold on in Damascus, but will become much weaker. Jeremiah describes at time when Damascus will be gripped by fear and her soldiers will be silenced.

    “Damascus has become feeble,
    she has turned to flee
    and panic has gripped her;
    anguish and pain have seized her,
    pain like that of a woman in labor.
    Why has the city of renown not been abandoned,
    the town in which I delight?
    Surely, her young men will fall in the streets;
    all her soldiers will be silenced in that day,”
    declares the Lord Almighty (Jer 49:24-26).

  • Young men have always looked for adventure overseas. A hundred years ago, young men from Australia and New Zealand were leaving home to help the British Empire invade Turkey. Thats what young men do. Modern telecommunications make the call for help easy to spread and travel is much easier now. Young men from Moslem nations all over the world will travel to Syria and Iraq to support the Islamic State.

  • In contrast, the United States is unwilling to put boots on the ground. US advisors with air strikes will be no match for Moslem sandals on the ground.

  • Air strikes do not win wars, they create enemies. I live in a city where the CBD was destroyed by an earthquakes. It is awful experience. Destroying buildings with bombs and missiles will not make the people of Syria and Iraq love America. The bombing of an oil refinery will not be seen as a blessing.

  • Obama is fighting the wrong kind of war. Military officials showed video of a missile destroying a "command and control center". This plays well to a western audience, but I doubt that the Islamic State has a "command and control center". The problem gets worse, because the the military planners will quickly run out of targets. To keep showing off their destructive power, they move on to destroying government and economic infrastructure, which produces civilian casualties. Bombing strengthens the hands of the Islamic State.

  • Jordan is an important American ally in the Levant. The Islamic State now has access to the western boundary of Jordan. It could easily gain control of this country, which is ruled by a royal family that is an outsider. The Hashemite family were installed in Jordan by Britain and France after World War 1. The Emir of Mecca had previously ruled the Hejaz (western Arabia) and supported the allies in the war, but he was betrayed in favour of the House of Saud. He was given Jordan as a consolation prize.

  • Ever since World War 2, the United States has refused to support a state for the Kurdish people who live in the area where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey meet. Now the United States is arming the Kurds to fight against the Islamic State. Their independence is another nail in the coffin of a multi-ethnic Iraqi State.

  • The struggle against the Islamic State is strengthening the influence of Iran over the remnant of Iraq. It will become an even more Shia state.

  • War against the Islamic State will create instability in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. I will deal with Saudi Arabia in a separate post.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Islamic State (5) Isaiah’s Prophecy

Isaiah 10 records a prophecy against Assyria. This was not Isaiah’s prophecy against Sennacherib when he led the Assyrian army to besiege Jerusalem. That prophecy was different and is recorded in 2 Kings 19:20-34 and Is 37:21-35. Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 10 seems to be directed more generally against the Assyrian Spirit, wherever it works. I think it relates just as well to our time. Isaiah describes how the Assyrian Spirit operates. It sounds just like the Islamic State.

  1. The Assyrian Spirit arises at a time when God’s people are passing unjust laws that deprive the poor of their rights and rob oppressed people of justice.

    Woe to those who make unjust laws,
    to those who issue oppressive decrees,
    to deprive the poor of their rights
    and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
    making widows their prey
    and robbing the fatherless.
    What will you do on the day of reckoning,
    when disaster comes from afar? (Is 10:1-2).
    God’s justice requires that aliens in the land get the same justice as other citizens. His justice forbids the shifting of boundary markers. Those who pass unjust laws will get their day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar. There will be no place to hide.

  2. The Assyrian Spirit will seize loot and snatch plunder (Is 10:6). Wealth will be destroyed, as if it were mud being trampled in the streets.

  3. Their intention was not to seize wealth. Their plan is to put an end to nations. Nations have no place in a caliphate. Their plans are to bring some existing nations to an end.

    But this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind;
    his purpose is to destroy, to put an end to many nations (Is 10:7).
    Shia Islam has generally been a persecuted minority, so they have historically avoided political power. The development of the Islamic state by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran was a significant innovation in Shia theology.

    Sunni Moslems have a more positive view of political power, but there is no equivalent of the separation of “church and state”. Sunni Islam is a state religion in which the supreme authority is a political/religious leader. This leaves no room for nationalism, and no place for a modern nation state. More radical Sunni Moslems see the Sunni nation states like Saudi Arabia as a blasphemous idol.

  4. The Islamic State is destroying those century old boundaries.

    I removed the boundaries of nations (Is 10:13).
    At the end of the First World War, Britain and France divided up the remnant of the Ottoman Empire according to the Sykes-Picot plan. They believed that local winners of the war had the right to do this. They ignored geography and tribal groupings. Promises of independence that had been made to the local people who fought with them were broken. They divided the land to increase their economic power. Iraq was put together from three religiously mixed provinces, so Britain could keep control of the oilfields that had just been discovered. France cut Lebanon out of Syria to create a Christian enclave. Kuwait was peeled off to safeguard its oil for Britain.

    The artificial nations established by squabbling British and French bureaucrats will disappear, and new ones will emerge. Boundaries drawn on maps that had no connection to people or geography will be wiped away.

  5. The Assyrian Spirit says that there will be local leaders, but no kings.

    My princes are kings together (Is 10:8).
    This points to the caliphate, where kings and nations disappear and all Moslem people come under a single political/military leader.

  6. The Assyrian Spirit conquers nations and smashes their idols (Is 10:10). When the Islamic State gained control of cities in Iraq, it destroyed Christian Churches and Shia shrines, because it considered them idols.

  7. The Assyrian Spirit is described as a sharp razor (Is 8:20). It will cut quickly through opposition with terrible destruction.

  8. All opposition will fall away before the Assyrian Spirit without offering resistance.

    As one reaches into a nest,
    so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
    as people gather abandoned eggs,
    so I gathered all the countries;
    not one flapped a wing,
    or opened its mouth to chirp (Acts 10:14).
    This is what happened in Mosul. A few Islamic State soldiers reached into this nest, and the military commanders fled. Many Iraqi soldiers swapped over to the other side and joined the invaders.

  9. The Spirit of Assyria uses an axe as a weapon.

    Does the axe raise itself above the person who swings it,
    or the saw boast against the one who uses it (Is 10:15)?
    This is an interesting sign. The Islamic State has been beheading Western journalist to boast of its power and create fear.

  10. This power will not be defeated by war. It will be weakened when God sends wasting disease against it.

    Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors (Is 10:16).
    The Islamic State destroys economies. It does not create productive economic activity. When its plunder runs out it will collapse into poverty. Sickness and disease will spread. However, this event is well into the future.

  11. Pestilence and disease will not end the Islamic State. The gospel of Jesus will become a fire that burns through the land.

    The Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    will kindle a fire under his pomp,
    like a blazing flame.
    The Light of Israel will become a fire,
    their Holy One a flame;
    in a single day it will burn and consume
    his thorns and his briers (Is 10:16-17).
    The gospel of Jesus will spread through the Islamic State in the power of the Spirit. Christians will go through the land healing the sick and proclaiming the good news. Some of those who carry the gospel will come out of the land of Israel. The gospel will destroy the power of the Assyrian Spirit forever. His power (thorns and briars) will be destroyed forever.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Islamic State (4) Assyrian Spirit

Evil spirits are not very clever, so they tend to do things I the same way. That is another reason why history often repeats. Therefore, the parallels between the Assyrian empire and the Islamic State are significant.

  1. The Assyria Empire’s first major conquest was Babylon. The Islamic State made its first gains in the same area.

  2. The Islamic State is now based in the city of Mosul. Assyria was based in Nineveh, which was just across the Tigris River.

  3. Assyria was controlled by a violent and warring spirit. So is the Islamic State.

  4. The Islamic State controls significant chunks of Syria and Iraq. This same territory was the heart of the Assyrian empire.

  5. The Assyrian armies filled people with fear (Is 8:12). The Islamic State is filling people all over the world with fear.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Islamic State (3) Emergence

The Islamic State that has emerged in Syria and Northern Iraq is controlled by Spirit of Assyria. The Islamic State had its origins in Iraq following the American invasion in 2003. A number of Sunni insurgency groups were formed to fight against the American troops and the Shia militia that were pushing Sunni Moslems out of Baghdad. Several of these groups consolidated into the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) which at its height it enjoyed a significant presence in the Iraqi governorates of Al Anbar, Nineveh and Kirkuk. In 2008, George Bush paid the Sunni tribal leaders to lead a backlash against the group and it went into a temporary decline.

In late 2009, when US troops began withdrawing from the countryside, ISI rebounded and directed its attacks against the Iraqi government. The following year, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed the new leader of the ISI. He replenished the group's leadership by appointing former Ba'athist military and intelligence officers who had served during the Saddam Hussein regime. Many of these men had spent time imprisoned by American forces.

The war in Syria created a new opportunity. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sent Syrian and Iraqi ISI members, who were experienced in guerrilla warfare, across the border into Syria. They recruited supporters and gradually gained control of much of the north-eastern part of the country. ISI became ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

In 2014, ISIS gained control of Fallujah, which had been conquered twice by American forces. ISIS forces began a major offensive in northern Iraq and quickly captured Samarra, Mosul and Tikrit. The Iraqi army that had been trained by the Americans collapsed and fled. ISIS now controls a large area of land in northern and eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq. It has gained control of money from the bank of Mosul and military weapons left by Iraqi army. It gained control of some oil fields and the Tikrit oil refinery, which will give it an ongoing supply of revenue and arms. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself to be the new caliphate of the Islamic State.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Islamic State (2) Assyrian Empire

The bible reveals that the Assyrian empire was controlled by a spiritual power.

So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria and the spirit of Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile (1 Chron 5:36).
The same spirit worked in both these kings. Pul was a general who seized the throne of Assyria following a revolt. The spirit that controlled him moved on to control his successors. The Spirit of Assyria is still around and ready for action.

Assyria (not the same as modern Syria) was one of the oldest empires in the Middle East. The empire was based on the city of Nineveh, which was founded by Nimrod, who was famous throughout the world as a mighty warrior (Gen 10:8-11). This makes the Spirit of Assyria a powerful and violent warring spirit. At the peak of its power, Assyria defeated and controlled both Babylon and Egypt.

When the northern kingdom of Israel rebelled against God, Isaiah warned that they would be judged by the Assyrian army.

The plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria (Is 8:4).
The King of Assyria invaded Israel and took the people into exile. He brought people from Assyria to live in the land they had left behind (2 Kings 15:29; 17:5-24).
When Hezekiah was King of Judah, the city of Jerusalem was besieged by an Assyrian army led by King Sennacherib. Isaiah prophesied that God would keep the city safe, and his word was fulfilled.
That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there (2 Kings 19:35-36).
Sennacherib was killed by two of his sons, but succeeded by a third. The same warring violent spirit controlled him.

All traces of Assyria and it empire are now well gone. All that remains of Nineveh is a province in the north of modern Iraq that is called Nineveh Province. The provincial capital is Mosul, which lies across the Tigris River from the ruins of ancient Nineveh. In modern times, the land of Assyria was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. It was chopped up into several nations at the end of the First World War. Although his situation on earth was disastrous, the Spirit of Assyria was not dead. He was biding his time in the spiritual realms and waiting for an opportunity to strike. His time now seems to have come.

I will explain how tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Islamic State (1) Spiritual Empires

President Obama has announced his strategy for dealing with the Islamic State. He is at a bit of a disadvantage, because his advisors do not have much understanding of the links between religion and society. Most would not know the difference between a Wahhabi and a Salafi. Worse still, they have no clue about interactions between the spiritual and the physical realms. They look at military and economic strength, but they ignore spiritual forces. If you only have partial information, you will make bad decisions.

Big events on earth are usually the consequence of events in the spiritual realms. One reason that history on earth seems to repeat is continuity of events and characters in the spiritual realms.

The empires that rise and fall on earth are usually controlled by principalities and powers in the spiritual realms. Evil spirits do not die of old age. When an empire fades, the evil power that controls it does not go and look for another empire, but remains attached to the place where the empire was based. Many of the evil spirits that worked it would go over to the other side, but the principality and power will usually wait for an opportunity to reassert his power.

The Prince of Persia was the powerful evil spirit that controlled the Persian Empire when it was the most powerful empire in the world (Dan 10:13). When the armies of Persia were defeated by Alexander the Great, the Prince of Persia hung around for more than a thousand years waiting to get another chance to exercise power. He is now back in the driving seat in modern Iran.

The exception is the spirit that controlled Babylon. When Babylon was destroyed, its principality and power went and established itself in Rome. It left Rome when it collapsed and is now at work in the nation that will become the new Babylon, when the Babylon the Great described in Revelation emerges.

The ancient Middle East was dominated by four big empires each controlled by a spiritual prince. These were four empires were Babylon, Egypt, Persia and Assyria. The spiritual ruler of Babylon has moved on to better things, but the spiritual princes that controlled Egypt, Persia and Assyria are still there. Egypt and Persia are well understood, but Assyria has been forgotten.

More on Assyria in my next post.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Working in the Dark

When Naaman was healed of leprosy by washing seven times in the River Jordan, he had a problem. He had switched his allegiance to God, but he would still have to take his master the King of Aram into a pagan temple of Rimmon. He took two mule loads of soil back to his home town (2 Kings 5:17). He would have spread it on the floor in the pagan temple where is master worshipped. It would appear like dust on the floor, so no one would realise it was there. By this symbolism, he created a space in the pagan world that belonged to God. When he went into the pagan temple as part of his work, he could worship the true God.

People at the bottom level in a business have very little authority. However, they should try to create an area that belongs to God. It might be limited to the space around their desk, or the counter where they serve. By quiet prayer, they can make this spot a place where the Holy Spirit is happy to be. Invite him to be there every day. This gives them freedom to walk with God. It also allows other people to come into contact with the Spirit. They should expect to see them touched.

Some people will not be able to control a space. They have authority over their words and their smiles. They should dedicate what they do control to God, each day.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Elections: Power or Authority

Saturday is election day in New Zealand. Next week a new parliament of one hundred and twenty men and women will be get absolute authority over everyone and everything in New Zealand. They will claim their authority is legitimate, because the country was given an opportunity to vote in an election. I do not accept that claim.

I did not participate in the voting charade, because it legitimises an immoral process. I do not recognise their authority as legitimate.

The people elected to parliament will say that the other people who voted gave them the authority to govern me. That is absurd. Another person cannot give someone else authority over me. God made me a free person, so I am the only one who can give someone else authority over me. Anyone who imposes their authority over my life without my permission is a bully and a thug, whatever they pretend to be.

I only recognise the authority of one person. That is Jesus. He earned his authority by dying on the cross, rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. God has made him king of heaven and earth. Any other person or group who claims authority over me is a usurper or rebel against Jesus. I do not acknowledge their authority.

I can see that the power of the parliament is real. They have the power to take a significant share of the money I earn, and spend it how they like. They can make me do things that I do not want to do, and they can impose serious penalties, if I refuse to do them. I unwilling recognise their power, but I do not acknowledge their authority as legitimate.

I am not going to submit to them, or give their power system credibility, by voting for any of them. I am not going give them authority by voting for them.

Voting is a process for giving authority away. The voter is saying to the candidates, “you can have authority over me”. When we vote, we are agreeing to submit to the people who win the election, regardless of who they are. By submitting to them we are giving them authority over our lives. Worse still, we give authority to the spiritual powers that manipulate them.

Early Spring

Spring has been early in Christchurch. The daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses have been beautiful, but are fading now. Freesias are budding. The tulips are bursting out.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Voting for Principalities and Powers

The following is an extract from by book called Kingdom Authority, which will be published later this year.

When the people of a city or nation submit to their political leaders, they give them authority over their lives. If the powers of evil get to control the people at the top of the political hierarchy, they gain authority over all the people submitted to them. Concentration of political power leverages the authority of the powers of evil.

The spiritual powers that control political leaders are called “principalities and powers” in the Bible (Eph 1:21). Some, like Prince of Persia, take the name of their nation (Dan 10:20). They have immense authority on earth, despite their defeat on the cross, because people submit to the leaders controlled by them. Political leaders have legal authority over their people, so attacking them gives the principalities and powers control over cities and nations.

Focussing on individual people is a very inefficient way for the powers of evil to use their shrinking power. If an evil spirit gains control over one person, it can make that person’s life miserable, but that is all. By getting control over a political leader, the same spirit can make an entire nation miserable. The powers of evil amplify their power by attacking people with political authority.

The power of evil is mostly an illusion, but concentrating on a few powerful people has allowed the forces of evil to magnify their pathetic power. Controlling human political power has amplified their authority out of proportion to their strength.

In the modern world, political power has been centralised and consolidated as never before. The leader of a modern democratic nation has greater power and authority than an emperor in Old Testament times, because they can control every aspect of life in their city or nation.

The political systems of great nations are extremely dangerous, because one person has control over hundreds of millions of people. The devil can gain huge power on earth, by deploying a few strong spirits to get control of the president of China, Russia or the United States. By getting control of these leaders, the principalities and powers get authority over everyone submitted to them. Concentration of human political power gives vast power to the principalities and powers that control it.

The principalities and powers love to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). We are seeing this now in many parts of the world. Wars and economic crashes are not God’s judgements, but are a sign that evil powers have been given a free hand.

Political power is a huge obstacle to the Kingdom of God, because it is so vulnerable to evil. Political evil cannot be defeated with political power. Many Christians have unwittingly supported the enemy and held back the Kingdom by seeking political power. Instead, we must wait until God destroys human government by bringing judgment against it when the time is right.

When we vote, we submit to the political powers of our nation, and the principalities and powers that control them, which gives them authority in our lives.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Land and Spirit

Each place on earth comes under spiritual influence. We see the earth divided up by rivers, seas, and mountain barriers. It is further divided by the boundaries of nations and states. If we looked from the spiritual realms, we would see it divided by spiritual influence. The key to interpreting what happens in the world is to understand the distribution of spiritual authority.

The spiritual forces of evil work through the political and economic powers that control the world. Their authority works in parallel to the authority of political powers and the owners of land.

The owners of land have authority over their land. If the owner of a tract of land is being influenced by a spiritual power, it will have some control over what happens on their land.

Political powers have much greater authority than those who control land. If they are able to be manipulated by the spiritual powers, these spiritual powers will have a much stronger influence over events in the territory.

When we enter a place, we should be careful to discern what spiritual authority is at work. If we submit to the owner’s authority, we can make ourselves vulnerable to the spirits with control of that place. If we enter a shopping mall, we do not need to submit to the owners of the mall. However, when we take employment, we are submitting to the owners and opening ourselves to their spiritual influence.

Every earthly authority with significant scope can have evils spirits trying to control it. We should be careful about how we submit.

More at Spiritual Realms

Monday, September 15, 2014

Too Many New Seasons

I get frustrated when Christian prophesy that a new season is coming. A season of blessing, a season of miracles, a season of victory, or a season of taking back what was lost. These seasons are often linked with the numbers of days in the Jewish calendar in a way that often seem more like Christian astrology than prophecy.

These messages are confused about God’s character and the way that he operates. They seem to project human fickleness on to God. We change our minds. We forget to do things we intended to do. We don’t get round doing things that we want to do. We put effort into doing that we should have done earlier. God is not fickle. He does not act in arbitrary ways.

A change in season can only occur, if there is a change in the covenant relationship between God and his people, or change in the authority situation between God and the power of evil. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the biggest season change in history, because it destroyed the authority of the powers of evil and dealt with the sin allowing us to receive the fullness of his Spirit.

The last big season change occurred in AD 70 when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, bringing the old covenant sacrifices to an end. This opened a season called the Times of the Gentiles, when the Jews people who chose to remain under the old covenant have no spiritual protection, because they has no sacrifice for sin.

The next season change is the fullness of the Jews, when the majority of Jews come to faith in Jesus, bringing great blessing to the world. (These seasons are described in detail in book called Times and Seasons).

In between these big season changes, there is spiritual warfare. What happens on earth depends on the state of the ongoing war. Success or failure depends almost entirely on the church. Changes in the spiritual realms come from binding and releasing on earth, not the other way round (Matt 16:19).

God does not come and go. He does not arbitrarily jump from offering his blessing to withdrawing it. Blessing that were not available last week do not suddenly becomes available this week, because the year has a different number. God is not in a stingy mood one day and in a generous mood the next. He is not miserable last year and happy next year. The angels are not tired one week and strong the next.

God operates consistently according the principles that he has revealed in the scriptures. He has been working on a long-term strategy that began when Adam and Eve sinned. His strategy is consistent with the way he has decided to operate on earth. His way of dealing with the earth does not change.

In any season, they key is alignment with the will of God. If we align with his will, we experience his goodness. His goodness is not just blessings. His goodness might mean blessing with persecutions. If we do not align with God’s will, then things will go badly in every way (although he will work it for our good in the long run).

We do not need prophets giving vague promises about season changes that are disconnected from our circumstances and alignment to God’s will. What we do need is prophetic insights into God will’s in our current situation, so that we can obey his will and receive his blessings. What need less prophecy tell us God is changing, and more telling us how to change so that we can align with his will.

If we understand God's times and seasons. We will not see fickle and arbitary changes in the way that God works on earth.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Average is Ever (6) Stark Vision

In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen gives this summary of the new social contract that will emerge in response to permanently declining incomes.

The American polity is unlikely to collapse, but we'll look back on the immediate post war era as a very special time. Our future will bring more wealth people than ever before, but also more poor people, including people who do not always have access to basic public services. Rather than balancing our budget with higher taxes or lower benefits, we will all the real wages of workers to fall and thus we will allow the creation of a new underclass. We won’t really see how we could stop that. Yet it will be and oddly peaceful time, with general aging of Americans society and the proliferation of many sources of cheap fun (258).
I hope that Tyler Cowen is wrong. He brings a terrible vision of the future. I hope that the gospel beats him to it.

Tyler Cowan makes one prediction that I like. He suggests that as the ability of the government to collect taxes declines. people will become more dependent of local communities.

Americans will look more towards local communities and tight local bonds, to protect themselves against economic risks. Unlike the predicted breakdown in social order, these trends are already significant and observable in today’s America (258).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Average is Over (5) Academic Angst

In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen suggests that concerns about inequality are strongest among intellectuals.

Sometimes I wonder why so many relatively well-off intellectuals lead the egalitarian charge against the privileges of the wealth. One group has the status currency of money and the other has the status currency of intellect, so might they be competing for overall social regard. And in that competition, at least in the United States, the status currency of intellect is not winning out... The intellectual class, however, is small in number, so growingly inequality wont by itself lead to a political revolution along the lines many intellectuals have imagined (258).
A lot of commentators, most of all from the progressive Left, object strenuously to rising wealth and income inequality. Even if they are correct in their moral stance, they too quickly conclude that rising inequality has to cause other bad results, such as revolution, expropriation, or a breakdown in social order. That does not follow, and I sometimes wonder if it isn’t an internal psychological mechanism operating in some of these commentators, almost as if they were wishing for the wealthy to be punished for the sins (253).
I wonder if this “threat of revolution” argument isn’t a substitute for actually making a good case for a feasible reform. I’ve very often heard commentators from the left suggesting that if we don’t “do something” about income inequality, citizens will take matters in their own hands. There is a vague insinuation of a threat of violence, yet without any endorsement (or condemnation) of that violence. The commentator or writer doesn’t want to suggest that violence is in order, yet still wants the rhetorical force of having violence on his or side of the argument, as a kind of cosmic punishment for the objectionable inequality... The predictions of violence tell us more about the predictors than about the likely course of future American Society. Inequality can have bad consequence and we are like to experience some of those consequences, but these predictions of durable and significant unrest are some of the least though-out and least well-supported arguments with wide currency (254).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Average is Over (4) Revolt

Unlike other social commentators, Tyler Cowen does not expect a revolt from the poor in response to their permanently declining incomes.

For all the prognostication about the American future, the most important single fact, and the easier to predict, is simply that we will be a lot older. That will make us more conservative. Revolutions and protests are the endeavours of young hotheads, not sage (or tired) sixty-four year olds (251).
People will be set in their ways, aid to the elderly will soak up a large part of the government budget, and wealth earners will be the dominant economic social, and political influence.

Commentators often suggest that wage polarization will mean the end of liberalism—meaning a broadly tolerant society with lots of liberty and a protected personal sphere—or the end of democracy. We can imagine the lower-wage individuals toppling the proverbial Bastille and taking away the goodies of the higher earners. These are tempting conclusions, but there’s not much evidence of support them. Societies have a strong status quo bias, particularly, if they have high relative to other parts of the world.

If you are trying to measure the scope or potential for social disorder, look at the rate of crime. In the United States crime rates have been falling for decades and in present times they have surprised researchers by falling even faster than expected. Yet over those same decades income and wealth inequality have been rising significantly in the United States. It seems that whether we like it or not, increasing inequality and growing domestic peace are compatible. Very often I read warnings about how income inequality will lead to a society where the poor take by force what they cannot earn in the market place. Yet these predictions run aground on the simplest of empirical tests, namely crime rates (253).
Cowan suggests the last time that America had serious demonstration and riots was in the 1960s and early 1970s, which were a golden age of income equality and American manufacturing. He claims that Occupy Wall Street was tame by comparison to the 1960s, despite rising inequality.
Look where Occupy Wall Street has been strong as a movement. It holds great appeal for well-educated young people from the upper middle class, especially if they are under-appreciated liberal arts majors who do not have the option of stepping into the highest paying or most upwardly mobile jobs. It is not a broader American phenomenon that is catching fire on the docks of Elizabeth, New Jersey, or in the ailing Appalachian regions of Ohio or with religious homeschoolers in Idaho (256)
If we think about it, we really shouldn’t expect rising income and wealth inequality to lead to revolution and revolt. That is for a very simple psychological reason: Most envy is local. At least in the United States, most economic resentment is not directed towards billionaires or high-roller financiers—not even corrupt ones. It is directed at the guy down the hall who got a bigger rise. It is directed at the husband of your wife’s sister, because he earns 20 percent more than you do. It is directed at the people you went to high school with. And that’s why a lot of people aren’t so bothered by income or wealth inequality at the marco level: Most of us don’t compare ourselves to billionaires.... Right now the biggest medium for envy in the United States is probably Facebook, not the yachting marinas or the rather popular televisions shows about the lifestyles of the rich and famous (257)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Average is Over (3) Taste or Waste

In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen suggests that most people will get used to being poor as permanent income decline becomes normal.

There is one final way we will adjust to uneven wage patterns and that is with our tastes. Many of society’s lower earners will reshape their tastes—will have to reshape their tastes—towards cheaper desire.

The good news is that there is a lot of waste in American consumption—massive amounts of waste, in fact. Everyone has their favourite story about what the other guy spends his money on and could do without. But also the good news, oddly enough, is that there is a lot waste in American consumption. Citizens faced with financial pressures will shift into cheaper consumption, and a lot of them will do so without losing very much happiness or value, precisely because there is already so much waste in what they buy (248).
Cowan says that this adjustment will be tough for poor women, who choose to have children. He suggests that caring for children is an experience that many will not be able to afford.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Average is Over (2) Texas

In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen suggests that poor people are already adjusting to permanent declining incomes. For example the population of Texas is growing rapidly, because it is a place that is cheap to live.

Why is Texas so popular? For a long time the state has had one of America’s highest murder rates and it has a high property crime rate. The weather is warm but it is not a calm warm-weather state, give the storms and tornadoes.... Texas is skimpy on welfare benefits and Medicaid coverage, and 27 percent of the state has no health insurance coverage. Texas has one of America’s poorest performing educational systems, at least as measured by high school graduation rates, which in Texas are below 70 percent. What Texas does have is cheap housing...

In other words, if you live in Texas, your locale will offer C-grade public services but you may have more cash in your pocket than if you lived somewhere else (242).
I am not familiar with Texas, but Cowen says it is good place to live, if you are poor. In the future most people will be getting poorer, so more places like Texas will be needed.
Many Americans will end up living in areas with cheaper housing and lower-quality public services, if only to give themselves more cash in their pocket. Some of those areas might be a bit ugly to the eyes, again as a trade-off for lower costs. As cross-county moving proceeds, and changes what we are, the United States as a whole will end up looking more like Texas.

This trend will shape our world whether or not you find that the cheaper cities suit you personally.

How far will it go? No one can say for sure, but the fiscal limitations of the American government, combined with wage polarization, will test that question (242)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Average is Over (1)

I have just read Average is Over by Tyler Cowen. He gives his vision of America beyond the great stagnation.

The main point of the book is that high earners are taking advantage of computing power and improving their position. Low income earners who are not competent with technology are losing. The middle is getting thinner and thinner.

Cowen says that the lower classes have suffered as jobs have been exported to low wage countries. He argues that the process has only started. More and more middle class professional jobs will come under competition from Asia. The safe careers of lawyers and engineers will come under pressure from cheap international competitors with similar skills. The proof of this change is the fact that the labour share of national income has been declining for the last thirty years.

Most of the book expands on this theme, but the final chapter called A New Social Contract describes, his vision for the future of America. It is a disturbing vision.

The forces outlined in this book, especially for labor markets will force a rewriting of the social contract, even if it is not explicitly recognised as such. We will move from a society based on the pretense that everyone is given an okay standard of living to a society in which people are expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now. I imagine a world where, say, 10 to 15 percent of the citizenry is extremely wealth and has fantastically comfortable and stimulating lives, the equivalent of current-day millionaires, albeit with better health care.

Much of the rest of the country will have stagnant or maybe even falling wages in dollar terms, but a lot more opportunities for cheap fun and also cheap education. Many of these people will live quite well, and those will be the people who have the discipline to benefit from all the free or near-free services that modern technology has made available. Others will fall by the wayside (229-230)
The majority of people will experience declining incomes. They will learn to get by on less and less. Support from the government will decline too, as the wealth classes use their political power to get taxes reduced. The only good thing is that entertainment will be cheap via the internet. More circuses but less bread.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (19) Continuous Jubilee

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read from Is 61:1-2 and said this prophecy had been fulfilled by him. This was a big call.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn.
The prophecy ended with a proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favour. This was a reference to the year of Jubilee in which the debt of the poor was cancelled and land that had been lost was returned to the owner (Lev 25:8-55).

Jesus was not promising a one year in AD 32. He was promising that the blessing of the Jubilee was being permanently fulfilled. His ministry would bring a permanent, continuous Jubilee. This Jubilee will becomes continuous as the Kingdom grows rapidly. As multitudes receive the gospel, a great flood of giving will create a massive shift in wealth.

I am going to finish this article where I probably should have started, with Jesus’ sermon on the plain. This is Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount that Christians are familiar with. I presume that Jesus preached this message many times with different emphases according to the audience (Luke 4:43). Luke’s version of the blessings and woes is less well known, presumably because it is tougher to apply. It is important because it repeats Jesus’ promise of the continuous Jubilee.

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied (Luke 6:20-21).
The poor will receive the Kingdom of God. This is not just a spiritual blessing. The hungry will be satisfied. People who are rich and well fed now are in a risky position. Their comfort will be gone and they will become hungry. These big changse will be the consequence of the continuous Jubilee.

In his sermon, Jesus did not explain how it would happen, but we can see it happening in the book of Acts. In chapter 4, Barnabas was a rich man. By Acts 14, he was often going hungry (see 2 Cor 11:27). When Barnabas was suffering on his missionary trips with Paul, it would have been nice to have had his wealth, so they could book into a 4-star hotel for a few nights of rest. It would have been nice to have a well-stocked credit card, so he could pay for a ride instead of having to walk everywhere. Barnabas was hungry, because he had given his unrighteous wealth away, but the Kingdom of God belonged to him.

While Barnabas was hungry and tired, the poor people in Jerusalem were being fed Acts 6:1-7; Acts 11:27-29). This continuous jubilee was the fulfilment of the sermon on the plain.

In Jesus time, the only way to become rich was through collusion with political power, but this produced unrighteous wealth. When rich people heard the gospel, they would have to give their unrighteous wealth away. If they rejected the gospel, they would come under judgment and lose it anyway (this happened for many in AD 70). Either way they would lose their wealth.

If the rich people of Galilee and Judea chose to follow Jesus, they would give their unrighteous wealth to help the poor. This flood of giving brings the blessings and curses of Jesus into reality. The same is true today. If the church took Jesus teaching on unrighteous wealth seriously, there would be a huge flood of giving that would look just like the sermon on the flat place. The wealth distribution would be flattened dramatically. Unfortunately, we prefer to spiritualise Jesus teaching on unrighteous wealth and the poor continue to be poor and hungry and the rich tend to be satisfied.

This is the last post in this series. The full set of posts can be read on Kingdom Watcher at Unrighteous Wealth.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (18) Early Church

Most Christians look back to the book of Acts with envy, and fair enough. We wish we could see the free flow miracles that made the early church so effective. Most of us would love to experience the fullness of the spirit that they experienced. And we could do with seeing thousands added to the church in the way that they did.

However, there is one thing from the book of Acts that no one seems interested in copying. They took unrighteous wealth seriously. Those who came to faith as owners of unrighteous wealth quickly gave it away.

They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need (Acts 2:45).
For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:34-37).
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself,but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 5:1,2).
I wonder if we would experience more of what they experienced, if we took unrighteous wealth as seriously as they did.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (17) Rich Dad Poor Dad

The book called Rich Dad Poor Dad by American businessmen Robert Kiyosaki is popular amongst Christians. The book contains some great wisdom, but his core method for acquiring wealth is morally flawed. It relies on using a combination of maximum debt and inflation to acquire residential and commercial real estate. Both debt and inflation are contrary to God’s Instructions for Economic Life, so the wealth his method produces is unrighteous wealth.

The wealth gained this way usually comes from people who cannot afford it. It is not a productive activity.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (16) Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus understood Jesus message. When Jesus came to dine with him, he stood up and said,

Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount (Luke 18:9).
This was not a grand gesture to impress Jesus. He knew that he was the owner of unrighteous wealth. Tax collectors became rich by stealing from their fellow citizens, using stand-over tactics. Zacchaeus was entitled to a fee for his services, but most of his wealth was unrighteous wealth.

Zacchaeus wanted to enter the Kingdom of God, so he knew what he had to do. He had to get rid of his unrighteous wealth. He offered to fourfold restitution to anyone he had stolen from. That is what the Law required (Ex 22:1). He no longer knew who he had acquired most of his wealth from, so he could not make restitution. That is why he gave half of his possessions to the poor.

Zacchaeus gave his wealth away, because he knew he could not take it into the Kingdom. Jesus did not need to say anything to him, because he understood Jesus message. We focus on the generosity of Jesus in coming to dine with a bad man. That is good, but dining with sinners counts for nothing, if you are clinging onto unrighteous wealth.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (15) Rich Ruler

Jesus did not just tell parables about the dangers of unrighteous wealth, he applied his teaching in real life situations.

A rich man asked him how to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him about the commandments. The man insisted that he had kept them all since he was a boy, including the command not to steal. I presume he mentioned this one, because he had heard Jesus teaching about wealth.

Jesus cut to the chase and told him to sell everything and give it to the poor. The reason that he had to get rid of everything was that it was unrighteous wealth. The only way to make it right and comply with the standard of the law was to give it away.

This man was a ruler. In Jesus time, a ruler was an agent of the Roman empire. He was running the country on behalf of the Romans, which was a great way to become rich, without having to engage in robbery. Everything he did was legal, because he was an agent of the law.

Wealth gained by collusion with political power is unrighteous wealth. It is tainted with evil, so it cannot come into the kingdom.

Jesus gave a stark warning.

You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Luke 18:22).
This made the man very sad, because he had great wealth. He missed the promise of wealth in the spiritual realms. Jesus drew a blunt conclusion.
How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:24-25)
Some of Jesus listeners thought he was saying that it was impossible for a rich man to be saved, but they were wrong. It was just about impossible for an owner of unrighteous wealth, because their wealth has a hold on them that is hard to break.

Jesus was explaining that it was easy for a rich man to enter heaven, but it had to be done God’s way. A rich man could get rid of his unrighteous wealth by giving it away to the poor.

Unrighteous wealth cannot come into the kingdom. It must be left behind, or the owner must stay out. The owner must leave it behind, if they want to follow Jesus.