Thursday, December 31, 2015

Spiritual Powers

The population of the world is greater than it has ever been, more than 7 billion people. The number of evil spirits at work in the world has not increased, since their rebellion at the beginning of human and a large number were locked up at the time of the flood. Because their number is fixed, they should now be weaker than they have ever been, as they have to spread themselves more thinly across the world.

However, they have amplified their limited authority by aligning themselves with political power. Because political power is more controlling and more widespread than it has ever been, this strategy has more than compensated them for their limited numbers. Consequently, they are probably more powerful than they have ever been. By supporting political power, we have strengthened the powers of evil, when they should be weak.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Whose Government?

The government shall be on Jesus’ shoulder.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders….
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end (Is 9:6,7).
So what do Obama, Vladimir, Fran├žois, David, Malcolm and John think they are doing? They obviously do not understand who Jesus is.

Mary understood what the prophecy meant.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble (Luke 1:52).
We do not understand who Jesus is, because we still want to raise power men on thrones to rule over us.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Practical Gifts

When we give a gift, we give something that the person does not have that we hope they will like.

The gifts given by the wise men were not this type of gift. The wise men were providing Mary and Joseph with material support.

The gold, frankincense and myrrh were portable. They were easy to hide under a garment when travelling in dangerous places. The wise men have been carrying them so they could buy what they needed on their travels.

The gold, frankincense and myrrh were divisible. They could be sold one bit at time to meet their needs as they arose. They were saleable anywhere. The wise men were travelling through strange countries, so they carried wealth that could be sold wherever they went.

God knew that Mary and Joseph would need to flee, so he prompted the wise men to provide them with the necessary support. He then told Joseph in a dream, to flee to Egypt. Being a foreigner there, he would find it difficult to obtain paid employment. The same would be true when he returned to Nazareth, where he would be a stranger with no contacts.

Mary and Joseph were able to sell of the gold frankincense and myrrh one piece at time to support themselves during this unsettled time.

Thousands of sermons have been preached about the meaning of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the most important thing is that God provides for his people. He provided material support for Mary and Joseph and their baby, before they even knew they would need it.

Friday, December 25, 2015

God became Human

God created the heavens and the earth, so he had authority over them.

He created humans and gave them authority over the earth. Once he had given up that authority, he could not take it back, even if humans mucked things up.

And they did. They surrendered to the tempter’s advice, so authority over the earth passed over to the spiritual powers evil.

No human could take that authority back, because sin had made them captive to the powers of evil.

God could not take the authority back for them, because he had given authority on earth to humans.

The only solution to this dilemma was for God to become a man, because only a man was entitled to authority on earth.

Jesus could have taken authority for himself and ruled the earth, but that was not enough for a loving God. He wanted to redeem all humans from the power of sin and evil. So Jesus died on the cross to set all humans free from the curse of sin.

But none of that could have happened, if God has not becomes a man in Jesus, because only a human has authority to do anything on earth. So Jesus had to be born as a baby, and grow to be a man, because only someone who has lived as we live could be truly human and therefore have authority on earth.

This is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, not because a baby was born. Babies are born all the time. But because God became a human.

That has only happened once in human history. And had it not happened, the authority over the earth that God gave to humans would have been lost forever.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Beaten by a Stable

The spiritual powers of evil knew that a deliverer was coming to Israel. They probably knew the time was getting close, but they did not know where or how he would come. So they concentrated their power on Herod’s palace and Jerusalem. They have always had an unhealthy fascination with political power, so they always followed the power.

The angels were led by the Holy Spirit, so they all went to Bethlehem. They didn’t go there to sing songs. They went there to protect the baby Jesus from spiritual attack. This was probably the most dangerous time in history. If the powers of evil had managed to destroy Jesus when he was a baby, God’s plan to recover authority on earth would have been foiled.

The conception by the Holy Spirit was less risky, because the Holy Spirit could come when no evil spiritual powers were around. God just had to find a young woman and a man who were not under spiritual attack, because they would have given the show away. That was probably hard, but Mary and Joseph were so insignificant that they powers of evil took no notice of them.

In contrast, a baby could not be born in secret. People would know that a baby had been born, even if they did not know it was special. However, the powers of evil did not turn up, because they just could not conceive that a messiah or king would be born in a stable. They were hanging around the palace, so their attack never came, and there was no battle

The angels were so glad that they did not have to fight that they could not help bursting into song and praising God’s wisdom.

Glory to God!
What amazing wisdom and humility.
There was peace on earth at that place at that time.

A short time later, the powers of evil stirred up Herod and he killed hundreds of boy babies living in the vicinity of Bethlehem. Sadly, peace was gone, but that is what happens when the powers of evil are given a free hand.

However, Jesus and his parents had gone too, so peace and safety remained with them.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Prophetic Minsitry - No Heroes

We must avoid the common error of making the ministry of the “prophet” too big. This happens when we model the prophetic ministry on the Old Testament. The problem is that these men were called to the role of Prophet to the Nation (described in the next chapter). To fulfil this calling they stood apart from the priests and kings. Only a few heroes had the necessary anointing of the Spirit.

The New Testament has not changed the role of the prophet, but it has changed the place where they function. A prophet is still a spokesperson for God, but the context in which they function has changed. Instead of standing apart, prophets should be an integral part of their church.

Since the coming of the Spirit, a person does not need to be an Elijah or Jeremiah to be a prophet or a spokesperson for God. In the same way a Christian does not need to be a Billy Graham to be an evangelist. A prophet is just an elder who fulfils the prophetic role in the leadership of the church.

In the Old Testament, the prophetic ministry was limited to a few heroes. With the coming of the Spirit, this calling will be much more widespread. Prophets should be everywhere. The intensity of their gifting may not always be as strong as Elijah or Jeremiah, but their prophetic ministry is just as valid. Every church should have a prophet.

Prophetic Minsitry, p.18.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Prophetic Ministry

The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. A building with a faulty foundation will eventually collapse. The apostle and the prophet complement each other. So every church must be “built on the foundation of apostles and prophets”. The apostle will use their pastoral experience to draw a group of believers together and build then into a unit. The prophet will impart vision and zeal into the new church, by encouraging the apostle and watching over the church to see that it is built according to God’s plan.

Three important benefits come when a prophet and apostle work together.

  • The prophet gives vision and direction.
  • The prophet challenges the apostle if they take a wrong turn or go in the wrong direction.
  • The prophet protects the people from the apostle.
Apostles can be dangerous. Most of the people around them have been blessed by them or discipled by them, so they tend to look up to the apostle. This means that an apostle is often surrounded by “Yes men”, not because they are devious, but because they love and respect the apostle. An apostle needs someone bold enough to challenge them if they are mistaken. That task will usually fall to a prophet. Nathan took this role for David. Barnabas did it for Paul.

When a prophet colludes with the apostle to attack some of their people, life in the church gets dangerous. A prophet that starts firing the apostle’s bullets becomes a pet prophet. This is a risk that all prophets should guard against.

Prophetic Ministry, p. 15.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Woman on the Beast

One of the mysteries in the book of Revelation is the woman riding on the beast.

I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls (Rev 17:3-5).
John was surprised by the vision.
Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished (Rev 17:7).
John knew all about beasts. His world had been dominated by many great empires, and was currently controlled by the most powerful beast of all: the Roman Empire. What was strange about the vision was the woman sitting on the beast. Sitting symbolizes control, so this terrible beast with seven heads and ten horns was being controlled by a woman.

This beast is described earlier in the book of Revelation. It is a terrible empire that crushes and controls the world. The key to understanding this vision is identifying the woman.

The woman is called Babylon the Great, but that does not help much, as this was not the real city of Babylon. The original Babylon was not a harlot, but was true to its character. This city is a harlot, because it is like Babylon, and not true to what it should be. The name Babylon symbolizes immorality, witchcraft, adultery, power and control.

John was told the identity of the woman at the end of the vision.

The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth. (Rev 17:18).
The woman is the “great city” that controls the kings of the earth. This city had been described in the vision of the two prophets earlier in Rev 11:8.
Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified.
This city is called Egypt and Sodom and Babylon to indicate that it is opposed to the purposes of God, but it is actually the city where Jesus was crucified. Everyone knows where Jesus was crucified. The great city is Jerusalem. This means that the woman controlling the beast is the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel.

This identity of the woman is confirmed in Rev 12:1,5.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head… She gave birth to a son, a male child,
The woman with a crown of stars is Israel. She gave birth to Jesus, who is the child who will rule the nations. This woman controlling the beast was covered with glittering jewels, so she is Israel.

This is why John was astonished by the woman on the Beast. He had seen this vision of the woman being attacked by the dragon and being scattered amongst the nations (Rev 12:14-16). So he is amazed when he sees this same woman sitting on a terrible beast and controlling it. It was hard to believe that Israel could control an empire built in the image of the Roman Empire.

The vision of the woman on the Beast describes a season when the nation of Israel will control the most powerful empire the world has known. Many other nations will be controlled by her too.

This vision might be being fulfilled in our own time. The United States is the most powerful empire the world has ever known, with the strongest economy and military bases all over the world. Many nations are under its power, and no other nation can challenge its role as superpower.

The surprising thing is that the dominant political force in the United States is the Israel lobby. A presidential candidate who rejected the demands of AIPAC will have difficulty being elected. Getting elected to congress is difficult without the support of lobby groups like AIPAC. Many members of congress are willing to place the security of the United States at risk in order to protect Israel.

When Bibi Netanyahu visited the United States, the congress gave him a standing ovation, something it rarely does for a sitting US President. This strange power situation is perfectly described by a woman (Israel) sitting on a beast (United States).

Sometimes the fulfillment of a vision like this one of the woman on the beast is confirmed by a physical sign. If Hilary Clinton is elected president of the United States, this potential empire will be controlled by a woman. This would not be the actual fulfilment, but would be a sign that the vision of the woman on the beast is about to be fulfilled.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Big Authority Shifts that Change History

The authority of God will endure forever.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made (Psalm 145:13).
The Kingdom will not end, even when Christ returns. At that point Jesus will hand his Kingdom over to his father so that God might be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). He will rule forever and ever. His authority will never end.

God started his action on earth by placing people in a garden, with instructions to push out and fill the entire earth. Having completed the fulfilment of his Kingdom on earth, he will want to push out and fill the entire universe. Once the spiritual and physical realms are integrated, he will fill the universe with wonderful worlds and kingdoms. Those who have been faithful with little on earth, will work with him to fill the universe with his glory.

Kingdom Authority, p.174

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kingdom Authority

The boundary of a kingdom is not fixed by geography, but is determined by the authority of the king.
Authority defines the boundaries of a kingdom.
A kingdom extends wherever the authority of the king is accepted and obeyed. When a king gains authority over more people, his kingdom expands. When a king loses authority over his more distant subjects, his kingdom shrinks.

A nobleman who lives within a kingdom may refuse to accept the authority of the king. If the king cannot control the nobleman, the people controlled by him are not part of the kingdom. Outlaws do not accept the authority of the king. Although they live within the geographic boundaries of the kingdom, they are not part of it. They do not acknowledge the laws of the king, so they do not receive his protection.

Geography is only relevant, if it constrains the expansion of authority. Extending human authority over mountains and across seas is difficult, so most human kingdoms are limited to a particular region. The kingdom of Israel was a geographic kingdom. The king’s authority waxed and waned as its geographic boundaries expanded and contracted.

The scope of the Kingdom of God is not limited by geographic barriers. The boundary of the Kingdom of God is defined by attitudes to his authority. It extends wherever God’s authority is accepted and his decisions are obeyed. The Holy Spirit can carry the authority of God throughout the world, so his Kingdom can extend into all the earth.

Kingdom Authority, p.9

Monday, December 14, 2015

Kingdom Authority

Kingdom Authority is a prequel to my book Times and Seasons.

Authority is the heart of a kingdom. Many men have claimed to be king, but if their authority was not recognised, they were fooling themselves. A king without authority is not really a king.

When a king expands his kingdom, his authority grows. If a kingdom shrinks, the king loses authority. Shifts in authority change the shape of a kingdom and the status of the king.

Authority Shifts change Kingdoms

Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God. A new kingdom brings a big shift in authority.

In the beginning, all authority in heaven and on earth belonged to God. To understand life on earth, we need to know how authority was transferred to someone else. To be part of the Kingdom of God, we need to know how he plans to get authority back. The gospel of the coming of the Kingdom implies a big authority shift on earth. (Kingdom Authority, p.13)

Kingdom Authority describes the nature of authority and explain how it operates on earth.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Government by Social Media

Scott Adams suggests that democracy and elections have been replaced with government by social media.

Today, social media decides what is “right” and politicians follow their lead.

The so-called “government” still has budgets and politicians and processes. But at this point in history they just do what social media tells them. They have to. Doing otherwise means failure and job loss.

Emotion is a legitimate part of decision-making, even at the national level. Social media has fixed the one-vote problem by allowing emotion to be a multiplier.

One of the reasons the so-called “outsider” politicians are doing well this year is that voters know it doesn’t matter that much who has the job. Social media will tell the President what to do and he or she will do it.

I think that he is onto something here. I have noticed that pressure groups wanting to change government policy have far more success if they can get a good social media campaign going than by working through more traditional lobby groups. Especially, if they can get a few people who would benefit from the change to weep when describing their problems.

A recent example here was an anti-cancer drug that the government funding agency refused to buy. It said that the cost of $200,000 per person was not justified by the uncertain benefits. A television program interviewed one person who had improved dramatically after getting the drug in a trial. They did not interview any from the trial who had no benefit (presumably the majority). They interviewed several weeping people who were desperate for the drug.

The drug purchasing agency was unmoved, but then social media got going. Now politicians from both sides of the house have come out and said that they would like to fund the drug.

I notice that most of the social legislation that has been passed by the parliament was backed by entertainment media and social media working together. Changes to social policy that would not have stood a chance twenty years ago have been passed, because the backing of entertainment social media meant that politicians could not resist the change.

Therefore, I would modify Scott's equation slightly.

(Entertainment media + social media) = (emotion x people) > one vote per person

Friday, December 11, 2015

Times and Seasons - Beautiful Kingdom

The Holy Spirit will bring in a beautiful Kingdom. He will work in the hearts of all people to convict them of sin and to testify to Jesus. He will draw all people to Jesus, causing them to be born again. The Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth and teach them how to live. As he produces the fruits of love, peace, patience, kindness and joy, people will begin to care for each other and provide everyone with what they need. Peace on earth will come and our groaning creation will be restored.

The Kingdom created by the Holy Spirit will be a voluntary kingdom. There is no need for force and coercion when the Holy Spirit is free to work (Zech 4:6).

Times and Seasons, p.97.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Times and Seasons - Truncated Church

John saw two witnesses, two olive trees and two lampstands (Rev 11:3-4). The lampstands and the witnesses represent the church. It is Jesus witness in the world. The olive trees represent the Holy Spirit. The odd thing in this vision is that there are only two lampstands. Earlier John had seen seven lamp-stands 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 that cannot provide a complete witness to Jesus.

The church is truncated because the Jewish people are missing. A church without the chosen people is incomplete. With part of the team missing, the church is ineffective. This truncated church is active for 1260 day, which is the Times of the Gentiles. John is explaining that the church will not reach its full potential during the first half of its history, because the Jews are missing. That has been the story for the last two thousand years.

The two olive trees represent a constrained Holy Spirit. A perfectly free Holy Spirit would be represented by seven olive trees. During the season represented by the 1260 days, the Holy Spirit will be constrained by lack of faith in the church, and be unable to operate to his full potential. When this season ends, the Holy Spirit will be able to speak and act effectively on earth.

Times and Seasons, p.38.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Times and Seasons - Not What They Seem

John explained that things are not what they seem from the human perspective. The church of Sardis appeared to be strong, but in the spiritual realms, it is very weak (Rev 3:1).

Military empires may appear invincible to human eyes, but they have already been defeated in the spiritual realms.

A church that is being severely persecuted and is being decimated by political powers looks very different in the spiritual dimensions. To Christians involved in the struggle, the suffering feels intolerable and the gospel seems to be going backwards. In the spiritual realms, these Christians are a mighty army following Jesus to build his Kingdom.

The persecuted church may appear to be weak and helpless, but in the spiritual world, it is preparing to receive the Kingdom (Rev 2:26). When the church is struggling under persecution and the suffering seems intolerable, those who see into the spiritual dimensions will realise that they are close to victory over the forces of the world (Rev 19:14). John’s vision of the spiritual realms casts events on earth in a fresh light that gives Christians new hope.

Times and Seasons, p.18.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Names and Events

Naming something changes the way we perceive it. A good name can make something bad seem better.

I have often wondered, why the 1914-18 war was called a “world war”. It was not really a world war. Because England had colonies throughout the world, and the peole of the colonies got drawn in, it seem like a world war, but all the action was in Europe. It only spilled over into Asia and Europe, because the Ottoman empire was bullied into joining, but even in those places the fighting was between European powers.

The 1914-18 war was a war between European Empires. It was a war between Christian empires. Maybe calling it a world war, distracts from the fact that it was a Christian and European event.

Maybe it would be more honest to call it the European War, or a Christian European War. Of course it was not the first European War. Europe had be enveloped in war before.

The Napoleonic wars drew in all the Christian powers of Europe: France, Spain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy, or their predecessor’s. The war extended from 1789 to 1815. About a million French soldiers became casualties (wounded, invalided or killed), a higher proportion than in the First World War. The European total may have reached 5,000,000 military deaths, including disease.

But this was not the first European War either. The Thirty Years was another European war in which all the great powers of Europe participated. France, Germany, Spain England, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Poland engaged in one of the longest, most destructive conflicts in European history.

Initially a war between Protestant and Catholic states, it gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers of Europe. It became less about religion and more a continuation of the France–Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence.

So we could label the wars of Europe this way.

  • First European War (1618 to 1648)
  • Second European War (1789 to 1815)
  • Third European War (1914-18)
  • Fourth European War (1939-1945)
These were the most destructive wars in human history. Christian history does not look so good when presented this way.

Friday, December 04, 2015

On the Edge of the Inside

Richard Rohr explains that prophets live on the Edge of the Inside.

The edge of things is a liminal space -- a very sacred place where guardian angels are especially available and needed. The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, "a thin place" and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position. You are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways. When you are at the center of something, you usually confuse the essentials with the non-essentials, and get tied down by trivia, loyalty tests and job security. Not much truth can happen there.

To live on the edge of the inside is different than being an insider, a "company man" or a dues paying member. Yes, you have learned the rules and you understand and honor the system as far as it goes, but you do not need to protect it, defend it or promote it. It has served its initial and helpful function. You have learned the rules well enough to know how to "break the rules" without really breaking them at all.
There is a place and time for being outside, or you never really understand or appreciate the inside.
All of these situations are describing the unique and rare position of a Biblical prophet: He or she is always on the edge of the inside. Not an outsider throwing rocks, not a comfortable insider who defends the status quo, but one who lives precariously with two perspectives held tightly together -- the faithful insider and the critical outsider at the same time. Not ensconced safely inside, but not so far outside as to lose compassion or understanding. Like a carpenter's level, the prophet has to balance the small bubble in the glass between here and there, between yes and no, between loyalty and critique. The prophet must hold these perspectives in a loving and necessary creative tension. It is a unique kind of seeing and living, which will largely leave the prophet with "nowhere to lay his head" while easily meriting the "hatred of all" -- who have invariably taken sides in opposing groups (Luke 21:16-17). The prophet speaks for God, and almost no one else, it seems.

People inside of belonging systems are very threatened by those who are not within that group. They are threatened by anyone who has found their citizenship in places they cannot control.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

More Colour

My shrubs are still small, but their colours are bright.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Later Beauty

Some of the later flowering Rhododendrons have been lovely this year.