Saturday, December 19, 2020

Prophetic Mistakes

Prophets who warn about bad things coming are often wrong, because God is merciful and holds back the evil that the spiritual powers of evil want to inflict. Sometimes the people repent, which prevents the spiritual powers of evil from acting. This happened to Jonah in Nineveh.

Prophets who prophesy a good future are more likely to be wrong, because all future blessings are conditional. Humans are fickle, so God’s people often fail to grasp the opportunities that God has offered to them. Blessings often do not come, because we make choices that close them down.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Humility and Revival

I heard an American prophetic leader say that God needs a “strong America” to bring the billion-person harvest that they have been prophesying. This is not true. God could still accomplish his purposes even if America collapsed and disappeared.

We should remember that the greatest revival that has ever occurred in the world through history (many millions choosing to follow Jesus) took place in China:

  • under a communist government
  • without freedom to worship
  • without funding from American Christians
  • without the books of big-name evangelical leaders
  • without pastors trained in the popular bible colleges and seminaries.
  • without American missionaries
  • without the protection of the US military.
God does not need “his man” as political leader to bring revival. Having his people in political power might actually be an obstacle to revival.

God does not need a strong America. It would probably be an obstacle to his purposes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Paul in Jerusalem

I have huge respect for the apostle Paul, but I suspect that he lost the plot when confronted by James during his visit to Jerusalem bearing a gift from the Gentile churches (Acts 21). The churches he had planted were coming under intense pressure from Judaizers, who were trying to force Gentile Christians to get circumcised and eat separately from non-Christians.

According to the letter to Galatians, James seems to have been encouraging them (Gal 2:12-13). These Jewish Christians seemed to be defying the agreement made at Antioch (Acts 15), which was not a good agreement anyway. They were going out to all the churches that Paul had planted and trying to bring them back under their way of thinking.

Paul went to Jerusalem in one last desperate attempt to sort out the problem, before he set out on another mission in the direction of Spain. He was bringing a generous gift that was his fulfilment of the agreement he had made with Peter and James during the meeting at Antioch, an agreement that James was not really honouring.

Paul was under intense pressure. He feared for the future of the Gentile mission to which he had devoted his life. The intensity of his feeling is evident in his letters to Galatians and the Philippians. Paul realised that the greatest growth of the gospel would come through the Gentile church, so he didn't want anything to prevent it. His fears were exacerbated by the prophecies he had received on his way warning that he would get a negative reaction in Jerusalem.

I sense that James set a bit of a trap for Paul when he suggested that he pay for the four men taking Nazarite vows. There are hints that the Church in Jerusalem had refused to accept the generous financial gift that Paul brought because they considered it was contaminated by coming from Gentile Christians. As a compromise, James suggested that Paul use some of it to support the four men taking a Nazarite, presumably as a way of legitimising the gift.

Paul had reported the wonderful works that God had done amongst the gentiles, but James seemed to have fallen foul of the fear of men because he claimed that the Jewish Christians were upset by Paul and seemed to be worried that they would stir up trouble. A riot would make life difficult for the apostles who had chosen to stay in Jerusalem, despite Jesus' command to go.

Many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs (Acts 19:20-21).
What James claimed they were saying was only half true. Paul had not turned away from Moses, but he did teach that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised and that they did not need to comply with Jewish customs, such as eating separately from Gentiles.

James already knew what Paul was teaching, and he knew that God was blessing it. James had approved the gospel that Paul preached on a couple of occasions (Gal 1:18-19; 15:13-19), so instead of hitting up Paul, he should have been speaking to the Judaizing group and correcting their misunderstanding of the gospel. James should have been explaining that Gentiles did not need to get circumcised and did not need to comply with Jewish food customs. Instead, he had allowed this problem to fester amongst the Jewish Christians. Then when Paul arrived, he expected him to solve the problem that this created.

Asking Paul to fund the four men taking a Nazarite vow only added to the confusion about the Torah. Jesus had explained that swearing vows was unnecessary for those who had chosen to follow him and receive the gift of the Spirit (Matt 5:34-37), so taking a Nazarite vow was pointless. Once Jesus had died on the cross, the temple sacrifices had become redundant, so the sacrifices Paul was paying for had no value and were a waste of the gift given to support the church in Jerusalem. James was requiring Paul to support Jewish practices from the Torah that had been fulfilled by Jesus and were no longer mandatory for his followers.

Getting Paul to be involved in redundant Torah practices did not help the situation because it obscured Paul's position on the law when it really needed to be clarified. The Jewish Christians were not fooled, so when Paul went into the temple, they stirred up and the entire city (Acts 21:27,30) leading to Paul's arrest. He spent several years in prison and was eventually transferred to Rome. This arrest constrained his ministry, and he never got to Spain. Acts 28:17-30 puts a good spin on it, but Paul never got back into real apostolic ministry.

I am not sure why Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem at all. He obviously wanted to make peace with the mother church, but the prophets he met on the way had warned that he would fail.

Following James advice brought Paul's ministry to a screaming halt. I am not sure if this was what the Holy Spirit wanted. I don't know why Paul agreed to participate in Jewish customs that he did not approve. It just increased the confusion about the relationship between the Torah and the gospel. I suspect that he was already feeling intense pressure from the Judaizers who were disrupting his work in Europe. Due to this pressure, he seems to have been intimidated by James into doing something foolish. I do not judge him for that, because we have all made that mistake, but in Paul's case, the cost was great. It seems to be a great waste of an amazing talent.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Covid Conspiracy

A correspondent sent me the following question.

Is this is a pandemic, or is it a conspiracy?
My thinking is that it is probably neither.

The basic facts are fairly well understood. There is no doubt that a new virus has emerged. Its origin is uncertain. Most likely it crossed over from animals, but there is a small probability that it was released deliberately by American or Chinese germ warfare experts to see how effective it would be. It is out now, so the origin does not matter much.

The nature of the disease is now fairly clear. It is very infectious for people in close proximity to infected people. The symptoms vary considerably. Most people have no symptoms at all. Many have very mild symptoms. A few (especially the elderly and those with other pre-existing conditions) get really nasty respiratory failure and related symptoms. Some of which last for a long time. For a few, it is fatal.

The number who will die is still uncertain, because it depends on how the virus spreads and how long it continues to be virulent. Numbers of deaths are still relatively low, but it is impossible to know what the rate would be if the virus had been allowed to spread like the 1919 influenza. The early estimates of epidemiologists were greatly overstated, I presume that they enjoyed being in the limelight. Governments assumed that they knew more than they knew.

The medical management of the disease has improved significantly. Good hospital care and appropriate drugs seem to be reducing the death rate.

The word “pandemic” is not very helpful. It has an administrative meaning that is determined by the WHO. When WHO declares a pandemic, various insurance outcomes follow, and clauses in agreements that have been made with the big drug companies kick in. Since big monies are involved, WHO has to have clear rules about what is a pandemic. The word pandemic has a fairly well-proscribed meaning in the world of insurance and drug company contracts, but it does not mean much for ordinary people.

The big issue is the government response to the virus. The difference between this situation and earlier events like the 1919 influenza and polio epidemic that affected children when I was growing up, people have a huge intolerance of death. The decline of faith has resulted in a growing fear of death. Whereas during World War 1, death had become normal, people now react very negatively to any unnecessary death. This puts big pressures on governments, who have promised to solve all life’s problems.

While they could get away with doing nothing about the 1919 flu, and actually made it worse by shifting troops around the world at the end of the war, modern governments are expected to prevent the spread and stop deaths from coronavirus. That is the reality, not a conspiracy. Although most governments are quite happy to seize opportunities to expand their power. That is not a surprise, because they have always done that.

Their big problem is uncertainty, as it is not clear what governments should do to stop the spread of the virus. Obviously, isolating people who are infectious from those who are vulnerable is the best way. How far governments can go in doing that depends on the extent to which their population will accept government controls. In a few countries, there is more resistance to government controls.

The problem is that the scientific evidence about what will prevent the spread of the virus is quite weak. For example, it is actually very hard to design (almost impossible) a study that would demonstrate clearly whether masks are effective for stopping the spread of the virus or not. You need two groups, one without masks, and the other with masks, but with both groups having an equal probability of contacting the virus. The latter condition is almost impossible to achieve in a real situation where people go about their lives in different ways, and the possibility of making contact with people is uncertain. The evidence for many other government actions is weak too, for similar reasons. We should be more realistic about what science can and can’t do.

Most governments take a cautious approach and try to do everything they think will help. This works well for politicians. No modern politician wants to be accused of doing nothing. But being accused of doing nothing, when there was something that could be done, plays badly in the next election. Being blamed for unnecessary deaths is not a vote winner. So politicians always play safe and do what can be done, knowing that if it does not work, they can always blame the bureaucrats and scientist who claimed it would work. Politicians are biased for action.

Politicians are all hoping that a vaccine will deal to the virus before the economic cost gets too great. The long-term effectiveness of vaccines is still uncertain. Whether, governments will make the vaccine compulsory will depend on attitudes in their country, but I suspect that the fear of death has become so great, that most people will have it voluntarily if the testing has been reasonably robust.

The problem with most conspiracy theories is that they are beyond the capabilities of the proposed perpetrator. In my experience, most governments struggle to do what they have promised, because their incompetence gets in the way. They will seize more power whenever the opportunity arises, but they are far less competent than the conspiracy theories assume.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Northern Motorway

Over the last few years, a motorway north out of Christchurch has been under construction. Today the new motorway was open for walkers and cyclists. The photos do not show it, but thousands of people took advantage of this opportunity.

I rode along most of its length, 9 kilometres out and 9 kilometres back. A steady head wind on the way out and a tail wind on the way back, which is always the best way. The motorway will be fully open on Thursday.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Blind Spots (9) Jesus is Coming Soon

Many prophets grew up with a teaching that Jesus is going to return soon. Some still hold this teaching. This clouds their understanding of what is happening around them.

Christians in almost every age have believed that the second coming was near, but they all proved to be wrong. Modern prophets should be careful that they do not make the same mistake. The second coming of Jesus may not necessarily be as close as many believe.

We should always be ready for the return of Jesus, but assuming that it will occur in our time will often cause us to misunderstand what God is doing in the world. Once the Kingdom of God is established by the Holy Spirit through his church, it may continue for thousands of years. Therefore, the second coming of Jesus might be a very long way away.

A problem with the belief that Jesus is coming soon to establish his kingdom is the corollary belief that Jesus will do with violent power, punishing all those who do not accept his rule. The implication is that the Holy Spirit has efforts by the Holy Spirit to bring the kingdom using the suffering, service and love of the church will not succeed, so Jesus will have to come with his angels to forcibly clean up the mess in the world.

Unfortunately, the belief that Jesus will return and establish his rule using brutal force against all who oppose him reinforces the idea that Christians are justified in using military force to advance his kingdom prior to his coming.

The Jesus-is-coming-soon-blind-spot can prevent prophets from hearing clearly. (More at Times and Seasons).

This the end of my series of blinds spots. On their own, most of these blind spots might not be that serious. The problem is that one leads to another and they tend to reinforce each other. For example, those blinded by a love of war, will find it difficult to be impartial about Israel, because they will be impressed by the ruthlessness and power of the Israel defence forces. Likewise, those who believe that Jesus needs return and establish his rule using angelic force will tend to justify the use of military force to advance his kingdom.

There are probably many more blind spots that those I have discussed. I am not aware of them all, because I am probably affected by some of them without being aware of them.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (8) Israel

A serious blind spot for many modern prophets is their attitude to the modern nation of Israel. God’s promise to bless those who bless Abraham and his descendants has been twisted into a belief that the state of Israel can do no wrong, and that anyone who questions its activities is opposing God. The scriptural teaching on Israel is much more circumspect. It recognises that Israel is often presumptuous and attempts to manipulate the fulfilment of God’s promises. I discuss this issue more thoroughly in Nation of Israel.

Israel is not a Christian nation and most of its leaders are not followers of Jesus. That means that it still functions under the old covenant. Many of the decisions and actions of the Israeli government are contrary to the requirements of their nations covenant with God.

  • Shifting people of their land;
  • Destroying houses;
  • Destroying olive trees;
  • Different laws for different races;
  • Political alliances;
  • Political assassinations;
  • Bombing other nations;
  • Faith in military force.
Actions that break the covenant are denying the people of Israel access to the blessings that it promised. Unfortunately, many Christian prophets assume that Israel can continue in the blessings of their covenant without obedience. They just ignore the clearly-spelt out consequences of disobedience to the covenant.

God will fulfil his purposes for Israel as promised in the covenant, but he will not do it through political manipulation, military weapons and political alliances.

Successive Israeli governments have been emboldened in their actions by the unconditional support of all United States governments. Most US-based prophets have closed their minds to the injustices perpetrated by the Israeli government with their nation’s military, financial and political support. They seem to assume that everything that Israel does has God’s blessing, so they should bless it too. If Israel does bad things, they assume that it is justified.

Worse still, these prophets seem to assume that blind support for Israel will force God to bless the United States. They assume that sins of the United States do not matter to God, because their nation’s unconditional support for Israel has earned God blessing on their nation.

If God is speaking to these prophets about what Israel is doing, they have chosen not to hear. This complicity with injustice and evil creates a blind spot for many prophets.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (7) Love of Military Power

Too many of the people who claim to be prophets are excessively fascinated with military power. The scriptures warn against the dangers of trusting in military power, but they refuse to see it.

The worst manifestation of this blind spot occurred during the period leading up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although it was a disaster for the Iraqi people and the US military personal who were killed, maimed and emotionally crippled, the prophets who supported it have never shown any contrition.

Warmongering prophets and military power often go together. It is often hard to tell which came first. Confidence in military power opens prophets to a warring and violent spirit. The words of a prophet who loves military power are often welcomed by their political leaders. Political leaders are drawn to these prophets because their words feed their desire from more and more power.

The United States seems to have a problem with prophets that love war. The nation has such immense military strength that some prophets get dazzled with it and fall in love with war. This makes them dangerous at this pivotal time for their nation.

This love of military power is a blind spot that prevents many prophets from hearing clearly.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spot (6) Political Power

Faith in political power is a blind spot that trips up many prophets. Fascination with political power can prevent prophets from seeing what God is trying to do. They tend to get obsessed with getting the right people into power, because they fall or the deception that the next election is the most important in their nation’s history, which is a political lie, designed to enhance political power.

If prophets come to believe that the Kingdom of God is established from the top-down, they tend to get infatuated with political power. This leads them to focus on changing the political leaders of the nation in the false hope that this will bring the Kingdom of God closer. Unfortunately, these efforts to bring political change usually lead to disappointment.

During the fifty years that I have been following politics, leaders and parties have come and gone, but elections have bought very little change, except when the situation got desperate and change was forced upon reluctant leaders. The big changes have been brought about by cultural shifts within society. The biggest change within my experience was the social and cultural revolution of the 1960s. Politicians had very little to do with starting it; they could not stop it; so were carried along by it. The same was true of the arrival of the “get rich” phenomena that arrived towards the end of the century. Politicians did not know where it came from and could not stop it, but it had a far-reaching effect on the way we live.

The greatest social and cultural change in my father’s lifetime was the great depression. It gave his generation an entirely different attitude to money and security that forcefully shaped their lives. Politicians did not understand how the depression started, and did not know how to stop it, but society was utterly changed.

The big changes that transform society have very little to do with which party is in power and who is the Prime Minister or President. They are usually left struggling to keep up with changes that have already become inevitable.

A huge religious, cultural and social transformation is currently well underway in the United States, and politicians of all stripes are struggling to come to terms with it. They will find it almost impossible to shape it or turn it back, because they will get distracted by a few irrelevant symptoms, and misunderstand the deeper causes that are driving it. One side will try to ride it, and the other will swim against it, but both will be swamped and swept along by it, because they do not understand the season that they are caught up in.

The main reason that most political efforts fail is that all nations are controlled by government-spirits in the spiritual realms (principalities and powers). An election does not affect their position of power, so when a human government changes, everything carries on the same. Nothing changes, because the same spiritual powers are pulling the strings.

The prophets in the United States should stop fighting about who will be president and start worrying the warring, violent and deceiving government-spirits that have had control of their nation for a long time. Whoever wins the presidential election will further consolidate the power of these well-entrenched spirits. The prophets still need to learn that political power is the greatest obstacle to the Kingdom of God, as it amplifies the power of government-spirits that control the nation, and they are not removed by shouting at them.

The Kingdom of God is not established from the top, so God is not really interested in changing governments, unless there has been a massive change of heart in the people of the nation. The Kingdom of God is established from the bottom and then spreads out through society. The Holy Spirit prefers to work amongst two or threes to change their lives by the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

As more and more people are touched, the kingdom expands outwards. When the culture of the nation has been transformed, one heart at a time, the political leaders will find themselves out of touch and have to either change their minds, or walk away. The government-spirits that control them will find that their power has evaporated.

We live in the age of political power. The power of human governments (and the government-spirits that controlled them) is at greater than at any time in history. However, Jesus is not interested in political power. He refused to use political power to impose his rule on unwilling people, because he knew that his kingdom will come when people respond to the good news of his victory on the cross by freely choosing to love him and serve him in the power of his Spirit.

If they were honest, many Christian prophets would realise that they are sometimes more influenced by the culture of our political age than by the Holy Spirit. The current prophetic confusion has arisen, because they have bought into the lie that God needs a win in the presidential election. Once the shouting is finished and the dust from the election has settled, the prophets will discover it was not worth all the clamour and confusion. They will repent of stirring up a fake political hope and wake up to the truth that, despite their zeal, God did not care who won the election, because the president is mostly irrelevant to the fulfilment of his purposes.

The true prophets will realise that the Kingdom of God comes through the preaching of the gospel in the power of the Spirit. They will hear God calling his people to form Kingdom Communities under the radar of political power in the places where they live. The prophets will get on with the more important task of telling them how God wants this done and encouraging them to pursue the task with zeal and love for each other.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (5) New standard of Righteousness

Many modern prophets have introduced a new standard of righteousness, in which abortion is prioritised above all other sins. Consequently, they support a presidential candidate who has committed adultery because he claimed that he would make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions. These prophets claim that the thousands of abortions being carried out each year is preventing God from blessing the United States. They believe that Christians should use their political power to make abortions illegal, so God will send revival again.

This is not an issue of whether abortion is sinful or not, but about prophets prioritising abortion as the great abomination and making it the sole criterion for deciding political issues. Some used the candidate’s attitude to abortion to determine their vote and ignored all other issues.

The strange thing about the enormous emphasis on abortion in the American political process is that the Bible is totally silent about it. Abortion is not directly mentioned once.

The Old Testament law gives detailed lists of crimes and specifies the correct punishments, but abortion is missing from these lists. Abortion is not mentioned in the ten commandments; a strange silence.

The prophets challenged Israel with detailed descriptions of the sins that were upsetting God, but they never mention women having abortions as the big obstacle. They never suggested that abortions be banned, so God's blessing could return, whereas they did complain about mistreatment of the poor. The prophets criticised people who offered their children as sacrifices, but these practices were significantly different from abortion, because the perpetrator, the age of the victims, the method and the seriousness of the outcome are all different. Babies and young children were tormented by being burned while alive and the sacrifice was directed towards a false god representing demonic powers, which exposed the nation to their spiritual dominance. Worse still, these sacrifices would usually have been managed by men.

John the Baptist called on the people to repent and turn from their sins, but he never mentioned abortion.

Jesus challenged the behaviour of the people listening to his preaching, but he never criticised any of the many women that he met for having had an abortion (although either the woman at the well with six husbands or the well-known sinner who anointed his feet quite likely had). Jesus did not condemn the sins of ordinary people, because he expected them to sin, and he knew his death and resurrection would be a solution to the mess they have made of their lives. He got stuck into the people who claimed to know God’s will, but passed judgment on other people while continuing to sin themselves. Christian prophets should take note that God is far more upset by the sins of the church than by the sins of the world.

Paul gave detailed lists of behaviours that would keep people from entering the Kingdom of God. In 1 Cor 6:9-10, he mentions adulterers, thieves and drunkards, but he does not mention women having abortions, although they would have been common in Corinth. A final list of people who cannot enter the Kingdom of God is given in Revelation 21:8. Cowards, sorcerers and fornicators are listed, but there is no mention of women who have had an abortion.

It is odd for prophets to make abortion the worst possible sin when it is never mentioned in the Bible (not once). If God hated abortion as much as the church does, you would expect Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles to have frequently condemned it. Modern prophets get around this problem by describing it as murder. They speak frequently about “baby murder” even though that expression is not used in the Bible.

The problem with this is that the Bible defines murder quite precisely. We cannot claim that any death at the hand of another human is murder. Killing a thief who has broken into a house during the night is not murder (Exodus 22:2). People who kill soldiers attacking their community are not guilty of murder. God put clear boundaries around what constitutes murder, so we cannot decide a murder has occurred without reference to his standards.

Since abortion is not specifically mentioned in the scriptures, it can only be defined as murder by a deductive process that people can disagree about. If abortion is the sin that offends God more than any other, we would expect him to have specified it more clearly in his definition of murder.

A prophet with a distorted Pharisee view of sin will often get a distorted understanding of what God wants to do in the world. If they put too much emphasis on a particular sin of the people of the world, they can become obsessed with using law to eliminate it, when God is far more concerned about the sins of the church that are hindering the gospel and disrupting the advance of his Kingdom.

Prophets with a confused view of sin get agitated about abortions that send unborn babies straight to the presence of God, but don't seem to care about the millions of civilians who have been killed or had their lives wrecked by America's continuous, but pointless military adventures. They seem to be more concerned about unborn children in their own nation than they are about the suffering and deaths of people living in other nations, which is hypocritical.

The irony is that abortion is the outcome of other sins. Most abortions are the consequence of adultery or casual sexual relationships. I am sure that God is more concerned about the men who engage in careless adulterous or casual sexual activity than he is about the unloved and abandoned women who choose to have an abortion because they believe their situation is desperate. Condemning people who have messed up their lives, or had their lives messed up by irresponsible men, makes Christians seem callous and undermines the witness of the gospel.

The huge pressure to tighten the abortion laws does not deal with the underlying problem caused by the social and sexual revolution. Using law to deal with a social and moral problem is pointless. I am not in favour of abortion, but I understand that trying to ban it is dealing with the symptoms of a deeper underlying problem. It is a sad reflection on the state of our society and communities that so many women do not want to carry their babies, but trying to eliminate the problem by passing laws is just papering over the cracks.

People who think that legally banning abortion would bring the Kingdom of God closer do not really understand the nature of the Kingdom of God. God wants people to freely do his will because they love him, not because they are forced to obey with threats of retribution. Using threats of punishment to prevent abortion is not the way of God’s Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God will only come when parents no longer see pregnancy as a disaster due to their faith in Jesus and hope for the future inspired by the Holy Spirit. It will come when men and women freely stop engaging in irresponsible sexual activity because they love Jesus and walk in the love peace and joy of the Spirit. Abortion will only disappear when every pregnant woman feels loved and supported by a husband and a wider community. The best way to bring about these changes is to preach the gospel of Jesus. This will not be helped by condemning women who have abortions or trying to ban them.

Prophets who have elevated abortion into the great abomination, contrary to the scriptures, will have difficulty hearing God’s voice clearly. God is more concerned about the sins of the Church than about the sins of the world. Sinning is normal for people of the world but the failure of the church to fully obey Jesus weakens the gospel and holds back the advance of his Kingdom. Prophets should be asking if their wrath against abortion has prevented them from the hearing about what really frustrates God?

More here.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (4) Self-Promotion

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the United States seem to believe that they have been called and appointed to be a prophet to their nation. God seems to have far more prophets than he needs. The result is a multitude of voices all speaking at the same time. And they all seem to have a different message.

This cacophony of voices leads to confusion. Every few moments a couple of new videos with a prophetic message for America will drop into my Facebook feed. Even listening to just a few of them will leave the listener confused about what God is saying. A Christian who subscribes to several prophetic bulletin boards will have dozens of prophetic messages dropping into their inbox every day. The diversity of the messages will usually leave the reader confused. The only solution seems to be select a few voices to follow, and ignore the rest, but that is ignoring the problem.

Anyone who listened to the babble of prophetic voices speaking to America would conclude that God is confused, as he seems to be saying different things to different people. However, God not confused and he does not contradict himself. He words are always clear and true. So, the confusion must be coming from the people claiming that they speak for him.

The problem has arisen because social media and electronic communication enables people who believe they have a word from God to distribute it widely. At times the Israelites were left without a prophetic word. That is a terrible situation to be in. Today we have the opposite problem and it is almost as bad. We have such a prophetic babble that the voice of the Holy Spirit is almost impossible to discern.

Something is clearly wrong. Those who are pushing their words believe that they need to be heard, but they are often making it harder for God to be heard. Maybe it is time for those who believe that they are called by God to speak to their nation to remain silent and stop pushing their words forward and wait for God to raise their words up.

I am glad to see the role of the prophet being restored, but at the present time we seem to have toomany prophets speaking at the national level. I suspect that too many people who are called to intercession have tried to become prophets. Maybe people who are called to be prophets to their nation have been pushed up to soon by their friends, or pushed themselves up before they are ready.

Maybe prophets who receive a word from God should be asking they are the ones that he wants them to share it. A humble prophet might pray that the Lord would give their word to someone else, so there are fewer voices speaking.

The nation urgently needs to hear that the voice of the Spirit. Many big-name prophetic voices, who believe that they need to keep speaking and posting to maintain their popularity might need to be silent for a time, so that they do not crowd out what the Holy Spirit is saying.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (3) - Weak Repentance

When prophets focus more on what they want God to do than what God wants his people to do, they become dangerous. Christians everywhere seem to like claiming 2 Chronicles 7:14 as a way to get God to act, but without checking that it is relevant for their context. They seem to be keener on calling on God to change than they are for their church to change.

Intercession is not repentance.

Repentance is a change of thinking that leads to a change of behaviour.

Intercession often seems like a challenge to God to move, without any need for a change of behaviour by those who are praying. Where are the prophetic voices telling the church what behaviour must change? There are plenty of prophets telling the people of the world that they are bad and need to change, or telling politicians that they need to change the laws to make the people of the world good, but where are the voices calling for a deep change of thinking or a radical change in the what that the church operates.

Most prophetic voices seem to be better at declaring what God must do, while suggesting only minor adjustments to the way that the church operates. God’s sovereignty has been changed to God must do what the prophets have declared so that he will not be embarrassed. When humility is used as a weapon to move God, it is no longer humble.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (2) Allegiance to Words

Overstating the importance of their words can be a cause of prophetic pride. This often seeps out through our attitude to intercession. Some people seem to be saying something like,

We have prayed according to what the prophets declared, so God has to do it. We are standing on their words, so God must act.
The statement that God is sovereign means that he will do what he chooses to do. However, it is often made to sound like God has to act because hundreds of prophets have spoken and hundreds of thousands of intercessors and declared their words. What is claimed to be faith often sounds like presumption.

Reading some of the comments by intercessors, there is an assumption that if words of the prophets are not fulfilled, then evil will be victorious in the world. If the wrong president is elected, or if revival does not come, then evil will become uncontrollable and be rampant throughout the world. Everything seems to depend on the prophets being right and the intercessors standing on their words. The assumption that everything depends on the words of the prophets is over-confidence.

Humble prophets would be more uncertain about the accuracy of the words. They would be aware that they are fallible and could be wrong. In a situation where a prophetic word has not been fulfilled as promised by the prophet, I would expect to see more humility. Rather than continuing to push the word, they should wait patiently and leave it to God to fulfil it. Instead, the prophets seem to be pressing their followers to stand firmly on their words. Faith in God has become trust in the words of the prophets. They don't want their words to be questioned, because they believe it allows the powers of evil to undermine them and prevent them from being fulfilled.

Our allegiance is to Jesus. Prophets who are so attached to their words that they cannot admit they were wrong are dangerous.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Prophetic Blind Spots (1) Nationalism

The modern prophetic movement has several blind spots that sometimes allow deception. This deception is a big problem in this current season of decision.

Loyalty to their nation can sometimes prevent prophets from hearing clearly. Reading the words of the prophets about the US presidential election, I am struck by the arrogance that seeps through. There seems to be a strong presumption that God has to bless the United States, because it is a unique (exceptional) nation and the peace of the world depends on it. The US had done some good stuff in the post, so God must continue to bless it.

Unfortunately, the scriptures do not guarantee the future of any nation, or the church in any nation. The reality is that the United State is a massive mixture of good and evil, so its future hangs in the balance, and only God knows what the outcome will be. Anyone who presumes otherwise has slipped into presumption. Once a nation has had several revivals, it becomes hard to escape from religiosity and receive another. (Britain was special in its time, but its future has massively faded).

A common assumption is that the next big revival will come in the United States. This is arrogant, because the truth is that God can send revival wherever he chooses. The United States has been blessed with revival several times in the past, but each time the impact has gradually faded. There is no reason that has to send revival to the United States again just because he has done it before. Even if he has declared that he wants to send revival, it is conditional on an appropriate response to the moving of his Holy Spirit.

A related assumption is that God will build his Kingdom by sending a revival to the United States that spreads out across the world, but there is no reason why this must be the outcome. God achieved the greatest advance of the gospel ever under the cruel and pagan Roman Empire, so he can work anywhere. The greatest revival last century was in China under a hostile government. God can do his next big work anywhere in the world that he chooses. God does not need the United States to achieve his purposes. The next big advance of the Kingdom of God will most likely occur in places where it is not expected. Assuming otherwise is conceit.

Humble prophets would be more uncertain about the future of their nation. They would not just assume that revival must come to their nation, because their forebears were faithful. Sound prophets do not assume that their nation is so important for God’s purposes that the Kingdom of God cannot advance without it.

I am intrigued that most prophecies on the internet are given by people living in the United States. Reading them gives the impression that God is obsessed with the United States and does not care about people in other nations. This is not true. Humble prophets should be listening to see what God is saying about other nations who seem to have fewer prophets.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Correct Terms

When discussing the future and the big characters that come onto the stage of history, Christians should be more careful about the terms that you use, because it helps with understanding.

The expression antichrist is not in the book of Revelation. The term in “antichrist” is only used four times in the New Testament, and they are all in John’s epistles. John explains that antichrists (plural) were already out and about in his time, so antichrist is not a future character. John explains in this letter that antichrists are people who deny the divinity and humanity of Jesus. An antichrist is any person with heretical views about Jesus who opposes the advance of the gospel. Giving the title to any of the actors in Revelation creates confusion.

A second character is the Man of Sin. He seems to be a man who stirs up a big rebellion, at the end of the age. He is described only in 2 Thessalonians. He will be destroyed by Jesus when he returns in glory. He is not in the book of Revelation either.

The big characters in Revelation are referred to as beasts. This parallels Daniel’s vision. Beasts are powerful political empires that dominate a significant part of the world. The first beast that John saw was the beast that came out of the sea (Rev 13). This beast was the Roman empire. The vision goes on two explain that this Beast will be restored long after it seemed to have disappeared.

John explains how this beast will be restored. The key player is a beast that looks like a lamb, but speaks like the dragon. This refers to a religious empire. It creates a political empire that is equivalent in power to the Roman Empire.

My belief is that if this Beast comes to power in our time, it will have to be based in the United States, because it is the only nation with sufficient military and economic power to control the world. I suspect that this Beast is already in operation in the United States.

I explain these issues further in my book called Times and Seasons

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Bottom Up

Too many Christians mistakenly believe that the Kingdom of God is established from the top down. It is actually built from the bottom up. Unless the lower layers are established correctly, the upper layers will be weak, unstable and vulnerable. My book called Government of God explains how Jesus works from the bottom up, with a different, counter-cultural government and a different way of being governed . Until we start working from the bottom in his way, the spiritual powers of evil will continue to manipulate the people with power at the top, regardless of their party loyalty.

Monday, November 16, 2020


Jesus said that he would build his church,
so why do we build church buildings all over our towns and cities
where his people are hidden away and cannot be seen by the world.

Jesus told us to go into the world to tell people the good news that he has rescued them
and confirm this truth by healing the sick, casting out demons and opening the eyes of the blind.
so, why have we told his followers to come to a church building each week to listen to a pastor speaking
and watching him trying to heal the sick and casting out demons at the front of the meeting.

Jesus told us to wait until we had received power from on high,
and then go and do what the Holy Spirit told us to do, nearby at first,
and then gradually spreading out across our city and nations.
so why do we tell people they must gather for fellowship once a week, when he told us that we should love one another (all the time, not once a week)?

Jesus told us to go out in twos and threes, and he promised that he would be with us,
so why have we tried to bring his followers together in hundreds and thousands.

Jesus has given us a gospel that can change hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit,
so, why have we tried to change peoples’ behaviour by voting for our government to bring in tougher laws.

Jesus told us to seek his kingdom,
so why do we add the label “kingdom” to what we are doing
when his Kingdom is his will being done on earth as it in heaven?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Apostles Keep Moving

An apostle must keep moving on, or they will be quickly be turned into a bishop, CEO, or Big Man, depending on the culture. Paul understood this well. He was an amazingly talented person, but the kept pressing on to new places, so the churches he established could not make him into the “archbishop” of a group of churches.

Peter did not understand this quite as well. He seemed to be reluctant to go out and stayed too long in Jerusalem, so he became a governmental apostle. When he did go out, his behaviour was wrong at Antioch (Gal 2:11-14). He must have stayed to wrong in Rome too. No wonder he became the first pope.

Paul may have been more capable than Peter, but they could not make him into a pope, because he was continuously being sent out to proclaim the gospel and start new churches.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Love not Control

Maybe a true prophet would say something like this. Our country is divided. Both sides think they won the elections. We don't want to be led by your guy, but we understand that you hate the thought of being led by our bloke even more.

We are more committed to living the way of love than winning at all costs. We have the presence of the Spirit with us, and trials are good for us, so for the sake of peace, we will let your guy have the presidency. We would sooner live under a president that we do not like, than further tear the country apart with continued political and legal disputes.

Jesus example is relevant in a situation like this. He had justice on his side, but he surrendered to the religious and political leaders, and accepted their suffering they imposed, and demonstrated an amazing and beautiful love.

We trust that God will bless our gracious response by working our situation for good.  It might allow people to see Jesus in us, and open the way for him to bless our nation. 

Jesus is Lord

Christians love to declare that Jesus is Lord, but we need to be much clearer about what we mean when we say it. In particular we need to be clear about what he is lord over, now. I can say that Jesus is my Lord. But I cannot say that he is another person’s lord, because I do not know their heart.

We need a clearer understanding of what Jesus is Lord means at this point in history. As I explain in Kingdom Authority, at the moment Jesus ascended into heaven, he had all authority in heaven and on earth. He was Lord of everything. However, the situation did not remain that way. Jesus could have sent out millions of angels and forced everyone on earth to do his will, by threatening to punish them if they chose to disobey, but he chose not to do that. He gave humans back their freedom that he had won back from the spiritual powers of evil.

Humans responded in two ways. Some surrendered to him and chose to continue following him. They made him their Lord by submitting to him.

Others decided to do their own thing, and unwittingly gave up the freedom that Jesus had won for them. By submitting to the spiritual powers of evil, they allowed them to get control of their lives again. That is still the situation now. Jesus is currently Lord of the spiritual realms (but not of the evil powers). He is not Lord of everyone on earth. He is only Lord of those on earth who freely submit to him and serve him by following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

God will eventually work out his purposes on earth. The day will come as Jesus promised when everyone will bow and acknowledge that he is Lord. God will accomplish his purposes, but not by force. He will do it by the cleverness and the power of the Holy Spirit. He is at work to accomplish God’s long-term purposes and he will be successful in the end. However, that does not mean he will achieve everything that he would like to achieve along the way. People who refuse to acknowledge that he is Lord will often frustrate his purposes, but that will not stop him from achieving his ultimate goal.

Therefore, we should not say Jesus is Lord, as a way of expressing that God will achieve all his purposes for America, or any other nation. He is not Lord of everyone in America, so there is no guarantee that he will always achieve his purposes there. It depends on whether people choose to obey him or reject him. America may have started quite well, but that does not guarantee it will finish well. Carthage had a strong beginning as a Christian centre when Augustine was bishop of Hippo, but the gospel was eventually wiped out there. Carthage is now a spiritual and physical desert. There is no reason why the same outcome could not happen in the United States. If America goes down the tubes that will not stop God from accomplishing his ultimate purposes.

In the modern situation, it might be more helpful to say what Jesus is not Lord of. The truth is that Jesus is not the Lord of the United States. It has chosen a system of government which gives authority to humans, and that is now working out to its logical conclusion and shutting God out. It would be more honest to say that Jesus is Lord of most of the church, but he is not the Lord of the president or the congress. There are many aspects of modern life over which he is not Lord. Pretending he is Lord of everything in America is a dangerous idea that leads to delusion.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Prophesying Politics

Prophesying that a person or party will win an election is a pointless activity. People will respond in two different ways.

  • The supporters of the person or party prophesied about will hear what they want to hear. Prophesying what people want to hear is dangerous. If the prophet thinks that God wants a person or party to win, they would be better to urge people to pray, than to declare a winner.

  • The person or party’s opponents will not believe the prophecy until it happens. Even if it does happen, they will assume that the prophet got lucky. They will lose confidence in the role of prophecy.

No one really benefits from such a prophecy, except perhaps the person prophesying. They get an ego boost if they manage to pick the winner, but that might not be good for them either.

Geoff Holsclaw has a good article on this theme called Calling the Election a Fraud Because Your Favorite Prophets Do Is Dangerous.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Election Prophecies

Several big-name prophetic leaders in the United States (they openly call themselves prophets) have prophesied that Donald Trump would easily win the presidential election. Like prophesying the sex of an unborn baby, prophesying the outcome of election is risky (because there is a 50 percent chance of being right, even if God has not spoken). Prophetic people should be careful about both because we can easily be overcome by a desire to help and encourage, but the consequences can be quite serious if we are wrong.

Now that Trump seems to have lost the election, I will be interested to see how these people deal with their mistake. I suspect that they will respond in four different ways.

  • Some prophets will stand by their prophecy, but claim that it was not fulfilled because Christians did not pray seriously enough and consequently the spiritual powers of evil were able to obstruct it (this is blaming their listeners). However, there is a big difference between saying we should pray for a person that God wants to win and prophesying that he will win. People who are prophetic should understand the difference. In this case, they did prophesy that Trump would win, so they cannot wiggle out now by saying that there was not enough prayer.

  • Some will reinterpret their prophecies and claim that people misunderstood what they were saying. They will claim they were actually giving a much more nuanced message than was thought at the time and that their listeners should have understood this (another form of blame the listener).

  • Some will claim that they were not actually prophesying, but were speaking in their role as a social media commentator. They will blame the listeners who misunderstood what they were doing. This is not really an excuse, because prophetic people should state clearly when they are prophesying. Being vague about what they are doing as an escape if their prophecy fails is not an option.

  • Some prophets will respond to the failure of their prophecy with real grief, and ask forgiveness of the people who have trusted them (blaming themselves). I am not sure that this will be a common response.

  • Some will respond to the failure of their prophecy with a quick confession, saying something like this. Whoops. It is impossible for prophecies to be right one hundred percent of the time. All prophets make mistakes. I made a mistake on this one. Sorry! Let’s move on. This is a way of blaming the Holy Spirit for not speaking clearly.

A trite acknowledgement of a prophetic mistake is not good enough. These prophetic people claimed to speak for God. They declared that they had received a revelation from God about the election. They were wrong about this, so they need to do some real soul searching. They need to discover why they could be so easily misled about something so important, and explain what they will do to resolve the problem and preventing it from happening again.

God does not operate on the principle of “one strike and you are out” so these people are not finished. However, they might need to go through a restoration process for trust to be recovered. Their prophetic failure has done serious harm to the church’s witness to the world, so there needs to be some serious accountability.

The prophetic leaders who were wrong about the presidential election will need to engage in some serious personal examination. There are two big reasons why they may have got their prophecies wrong.

  • Some may have opened themselves up to a spirit of deception, which has been able to mislead them (like the court prophets who misled Jehoshaphat and Ahab (1 Kings 22)).

  • Some have previously accepted a lie that is commonly believed in their culture and this has opened the way for them to accept another lie without their realising it was a lie.

The second reason will often lead to the first: believing a lie opens people up to deception by a lying spirit.

Both these reasons represent a serious problem that would need to be dealt with before the prophetic person should be trusted again. If prophetic people admit they were wrong in their prophecies about the election, I suspect they will respond in different ways.

  • Some will admit that they were caught up in the general euphoria of the election and got carried away by what some pundits were saying. This is not very creditable. People should not be prophesying on the basis of media noise. They should ensure that they have heard from God before they speak, as this is what gives them a voice to the world.

  • Some will say that they were just repeating what other prophetic people were saying. This is not very creditable either. The scriptures are clear that prophets need to hear from God. Christians should not be prophesying what they hear other prophetic people are saying, if they have not heard from God.

  • A few will admit they were trapped by political biases that they inherited from their family or church, but I double that will be common, although it could be true.

  • Very few will admit that they have believed a lie or been deceived by a lying spirit. That is dangerous, because if it has happened once then it can happen again. No real harm has come from their mistake about the Trump presidency (except for creating massive disappointment) but the next time a mistake is made for these reasons, the impact might be far worse. The spiritual powers of evil like to try a tactic out and see if it is successful before trying it again in a different context to do far greater evil. Having people access to people who believe they are prophets, but are vulnerable to believing “lies” or deceiving spirits is a very dangerous situation for a church or a nation.

  • Most of the prophetic people who were mistaken about the presidential election will say that are sorry but carry on as if nothing has happened. This would also be dangerous, because what has happened is serious. People have believed a lie and spread another, and some who claim to be able to hear the Holy Spirit have been deceived by a lying spirit without being aware of what has happened (even after they have been proven wrong).

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Conflict with China (6) Autocratic or Democratic

The Chinese people have a much greater tolerance for autocratic power than people in the West. President Xi is seen as an evil person by many western commentators but is well respected in China. This difference in views is the result of a different historical experience.

Chinese look back to the long period when they were ruled by the Qing and Ming dynasties as the greatest time in their history. When the Ming dynasty finally collapsed at the beginning of the twentieth century and democracy was introduced following invasion by the West, the outcome was fifty years of violent and destructive civil war that continued through the Japanese invasion. This bad experience has caused the people to fear democracy.

Fifty years of civil war and economic disruption only came to an end in 1949 after the triumph of the communist party, but actually continued for another 15 years during the Cultural Revolution when revolutionary powers were released again. Consequentially, the Chinese have an intense fear of civil insurrection, and want a government that will keep order and allow economic development. Confucian thought is still influential and supportive of centralised power to keep disorder under control.

Ironically, the United States people are beginning to tear themselves apart with political and social disruption, despite the belief that they have a superior form of government. Consequently, the Chinese have no aspirations to adopt the American style of government, especially one that is controlled by powerful billionaires to protect their interests. They see American efforts to support democratic movements in their nation as another attempt to invade their country and weaken Chinese society and its economy by encouraging internal struggles.

China has many serious faults and deep problems, as does the United States. None of them will be resolved by war, particularly a war betweem these two superpowers.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Conflict with China (5) Economic Power

The United States became a major economic power before it became a global military power. The nation did not need military dominance to become the strongest economy in the world. Its businesspeople achieved that through trade, investment and hard work. This economic strength made military dominance possible. Now, the massive military spending that the US wastes in futile attempts to maintain its position as a global hegemon has become a drag on the economy that it cannot afford. I presume the Chinese are smart enough not to make that mistake.

The Chinese have already become a major economic power without the need for military dominance. It is already close to being the largest economy in the world. Given that it has achieved that position without needing to become a military hegemon, I presume, that it will not need to seek that role to maintain its economic strength.

Chinese economic influence in the world will continue to grow significantly.

  • China is becoming the largest economic market in the world, which will provide local support for developing industries.

  • China is already the world leader in several high-tech industries. Chinese companies are highly-skilled in the production of IT-related products.

  • China has a well-educated work force. It produces more graduates in maths, science and technology than any nation in the world.

  • China is spending more on research and development than the United States. R&D in the United States is skewed towards military activities, which puts it at a disadvantage in general economic production.

  • China is building transport infrastructure that links it with South Asia and Central Asia, which will expand its economic influence in the nations in the region. The United States has limited influence in these nations. It can park its aircraft carrier on either side of Asia, but it cannot prevent a growing flow of oil and trade across Asia.

Americans like to claim that globalisation has allowed the Chinese to steal their wealth. That is not true. Expanding economic trade makes most people better off because specialisation allows good and services to be produced more cheaply. The Americans who worked in the rust belt industries that could not compete have suffered, but most Americans are better off, because they have access to a huge range of cheap goods at Walmart.

That’s the way that international trade works. The people employed in industries that cannot compete effectively usually lose out, but everyone else is made better off because they gain access to cheaper goods and services.

Donald Trump is talking about decoupling from China and turning the United States into a manufacturing powerhouse. That is naïve. The United States simply does not have the people to be able to become self-sufficient and produce everything that people need. If the US does try to produce everything it consumes, the price of everything will go up, and most Americans will be made worse off.

The Chinese economy will most likely continue to be a powerful force in the world. Rather than hoping it will not happen, or trying to prevent it from happening, the United States needs to get used to the idea that the Chinese economy might become large than its own economy. That is not a bad thing. Free trade in which each country specialises in what it is good at will make people in both nations better off.

If American politicians continue to push for conflict with China, the smaller nations of the world will suffer. Because they are both nuclear powesr, China and United States are unlikely to go to war with each other. It is more likely that other nations will get caught in the crossfire of an unnecessary struggle.

There is plenty of room in the world for both the United States and China. They are on opposite sides of the earth, so there is no need for them to be treading on each others’ toes. There are plenty of less developed countries for them to invest in and trade with. The world does not need these two nations in conflict with each other.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Conflict with China (4) Trade or War

The Chinese have always been a trading nation. They seem to realise that trade is the best way to gain influence in the world and they are doing that effectively. The Chinese have taken a different approach to their neighbours. They have expanded their influence through trade and investment in infrastructure.

For New Zealand, China has become a far larger trading partner than the United States, at a time when the United States always seems to be trying to drag New Zealand into its stupid wars. The Chinese already have access to our production of milk, meat, and wool, so they don’t have a need to invade us, or threaten us with wars. Many other nations have discovered the same thing.

Nations tend to project their neuroses onto their enemies. The United States seems to be obsessed with military power and wants to use military force to impose economic dominance over the rest of the world. Not surprisingly they assume that Russia and the Chinese want to do the same to them.

American politicians to be worried that China will become the global military hegemon, pushing the United States from its place. However, history suggests the opposite. They don’t understand that the Chinese have always been more skilled at doing business than making war. They realise that they can gain more influence in the world by economic means than military means.

The United States has invested so much in military power over the last half century, and has such a massive lead in the size of its military power, that neither China nor Russia could ever catch up, even if they began devoting a much greater share of the economy into defence. The military dominance of the United State is unlikely to be superseded, even if the relative strength of its economy continues to decline.

The United States has an impregnable defence against China; the Pacific Ocean. Even for a superpower, it is virtually impossible to launch an invasion of one continent from another. It has never been done, so China is not a military threat to the United States. The fact that both nations have nuclear weapons means that neither nation could invade the other.

The British thought that they needed to establish a colonial empire to obtain the resources that they needed. The US has often tried to do the same, not by conquering directly, but organising coups to put friendly regimes in power. Since the Chinese economy is growing in strength, they assume that the Chinese will do the same as they did. However, assuming that others will behave the same way as you do is a serious mistake.

The Chinese government wants to protect its territory (including what is has lost) but it understands that it does not need to invade other countries to obtain access to their resources. They realise that seeking to invade another nations with military force is pointless, because it depletes wealth on both sides.

They know that it is better to develop trade and buy assets in the country that has resources they need. This provides better access to all the production of the other nation, without any military expenditure at all.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Conflict with China (3) Problem Repeated

Now the process of stirring up xenophobic fear seems to be happening all over again between the US and China. Again, we need a bit of history to get perspective.

China has never invaded the United States, but the United States has invaded China. During the gunboat crisis in the 19th century, the United States, the United Kingdom and France all invaded China to force them to open up their markets to Western exports. British merchants gained a monopoly of imports of opium into China, ie the British became the official drug dealer for China, which did terrible harm to Chinese society.

The invading armies from the West wrecked Chinese cities and looted wealth. They imposed trade regulations that hugely benefited the West and impoverished the Chinese. The British seized control of several Chinese cities, with US support.

The British and American people have forgotten these events, but the Chinese have not. They are determined not to let it happen again. That is why they are hostile to the US naval patrols in the South China Sea. Their strategy is “area denial”, which means keeping American aircraft carriers at arm’s length. They don’t want the United States being in a place where they could do it again.

The moral balance tilts one way, when we remember all the good stuff that we have done but forget everything bad that we have done, while focusing only on the bad that our enemies have done.

The Chinese have stolen some US technology, but they are just doing what they US did to them, and to others. Following the industrial revolution, British industrialists were upset because American businesses were stealing their technology. Ironically, American businesses are now complaining about the Chinese doing what they did to the British.

The Chinese have invaded Tibet, but they were just doing what the United states did when it advanced into the West and took control of the native people living there, or when America gained Texas and part of California from Mexico by force.

The Chinese government has many faults, but it has lifted a billion people out of poverty in a half a century. That has never been done before in human history, so we should be glad about that.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Conflict with China (2) Japan

Japan is another example of a “great fear” that got out of hand. In the First World War, Japan was allied with Britain and the United States. In the treaty imposed at the end of the war, the other allies were able to keep their colonies, but Japan was left with no reward for their efforts. Naturally, the Japanese were aggrieved and began to look for their own colonies. The other rich nations had colonies, so why shouldn’t they. (If the other nations had given up their colonies, the Japanese would not have had a grievance).

The outcome was an invasion of Manchuria, which had previously been controlled by China. Franklin Roosevelt had a strong interest in China, so he because increasingly hostile to Japanese colonial expansion, although it was no different from what the USA had done in the Philippines and other places.

Roosevelt imposed an oil embargo on Japan to enforce his will. The Japanese saw no alternative but to invade other nations further south in attempt to gain oil supplies. The confrontation eventually led to Pearl Harbour and an ugly war. The American history of Japan begins at Pearl Harbour, but the history of bullying and hypocrisy leading up to that event is ignored.

In a very short time, the Japanese went from being key allies to become the most evil people on earth. Soon everyone hated the Japanese intently. They were hated so much that it was easy to justify dropping two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing thousands of civilians and many children.

Now the Japanese are allied to the West again. We have decided they are nice people, so we drive the cars they have made and watch television on screens they have produced.

This switch from ally to hated enemy and back again was unnecessary. It was the result of xenophobic fear stirred up in both nations for political reasons. With a bit of common sense, and much less stirring up of hatred, millions of deaths and a huge amount of suffering could have been avoided.

If the politicians who talked up this division had realised how much evil the conflict would produce and how many people would suffer and die, perhaps they would have been less belligerent and have sought for more pragmatic solutions.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Conflict with China (1) Great Game

I worry about the growing tension between the United States and China. Some politicians seem to be stirring up antagonism towards China for political benefits. Unfortunately, these hostile speeches often become self-fulfilling prophecies.

A little historical will help us keep things in perspective. The struggle between Britain and Russia was an interesting example.

From 1830 to 1895, the British and Russian empires schemed and plotted over control of Central and South Asia. At the heart of the “Great Game” was England’s certainty that the Russians had designs on India. So wars were fought, borders drawn, and generations of young people met death in desolate passes and lonely outposts.

In the end, it was all illusion. Russia never planned to challenge British rule in India and the bloody wars settled nothing, although the arbitrary borders and ethnic tensions stoked by colonialism’s strategy of divide and conquer live on today.

A large number of people were killed trying to assuage British fears of the Russians. Many modern problems arose out of bad British decisions during this time. The British created a buffer against Russia by splitting the Pashtun people between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and leaving some Central Asian peoples with them, which made Afghanistan an artificial country with the Hindu Kush dividing it through the middle. Pushing different peoples together into one country so the British could divide and rule is the reason why the nation is still unstable.

Nations seem to assume that other nations will do what they have done to them. The British invaded Russia twice, in 1854, and again in 1917, whereas the Russians have never invaded the UK. The Russians actually rescued the British from defeat on two different occasions, first from Napoleon in 1813, and from Germany in 1945. Yet the British still have an obsession with Russia and assume that the Russians want to invade them.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Church and Government

Many Christians do not under the nature of government, so they incorrectly assume that the church and the government are similar types of organisation.

The church is a voluntary organisation. It cannot make people do things that they do not want to do. A pastor can put the guilts on people, and social pressure can pressure people into conforming, but if they don’t like it, they can ignore it. If the pressure becomes to great, they can simply leave.

In the Middle Ages, the church uses the power of excommunication to force people to do things. The people believed that if they were shut out of the church, they would lose their salvation, so they had to obey the commands of the church out of fear of damnation. That does not work anymore. If a church makes threats, a person can leave and go to another, or they can continue to be a Christian outside of the church. The church is a voluntary organisation that can exert moral pressure, but it cannot force people to do things against their will.

In contrast, the government an organisation with the power of coercion. It is not a voluntary organisation in which people join together for the good.

The government in any society has a monopoly on the use of force. This means that it can do things against their will. A government decide how much tax different people owe and the force them to pay it. If people refuse to pay, they can be fined or imprisoned. A government can punish people refusing to obey its laws and regulation. A government can make a citizen go and fight and die in a war, even if they do not support it.

Many Christians try to persuade their government to force other people to do things that they think they should do., but this a two-edged sword. It is a dangerous game to play because sometimes the government will use its power to force Christians to do thing they do not want to do.

In a free society, a church and the gospel is a much safer instrument for bringing social change, because it does not have the power of coercion. It can only bring about social change by persuading free people to change, but that is the best kind of change.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Prayer and Voting

Christians all over America are praying for the outcome of their presidential election. They seem to want God to determine who will be the next president, but I don’t think that makes sense.

The United States has adopted democracy. This is a system designed to enable the people to choose the president, not God. If most of the people were following Jesus and walking in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that might produce God’s choice for president. But in a country where large numbers of people are no longer following Jesus, it becomes a system that shuts God out of the process of choosing a president.

So when people pray about the election, what are they expecting him to do. He will not cause ballots to be lost. He will not miraculously intervene and change ballots once votes have been made. The most that God could do is speak to people and prompt them to vote in a particular way. However, he has given us freedom, so he will not force people to change their vote to align with his will. This means that most of the people who are not following Jesus, and some who are, will ignore any prompting of the Holy Spirit about how to vote.

In a nation that has adopted a system that allows the people to elect the president, and many have chosen not to follow God, asking God to determine the outcome of the presidential election is naïve. The people will choose the person they want.

I realise that some Christians believe in a doctrine of meticulous providence in which God determines every event that occurs on earth, but that belief is not consistent with the scriptures. I explain this in God's Sovereignty.

If a nation has deliberately chosen a system of government in which the people choose their president, I don’t understand why they would expect God to override the people’s decision.

Thursday, October 29, 2020


When I was a high school in the 1960s, we did one hour of metal-work every week. One of our first projects was to make a lunchbox out of sheet metal. Part of the lunchbox had to be riveted together using a hammer and a rivet punch to flatten the head of the rivets. This was a tricky task, as if the punch was hit at a slightly incorrect angle, the rivet would bend over, rather than forming a nice round head. The struggle to get it right put me off riveting for life.

Last week, more than fifty years after my bad experience with rivets, I assembled a garden shed from a flatpack imported from China. The instructions were easy to follow, but parts of the door had to be riveted together. I bought a riveting tool for a few dollars (also imported from China). I was amazed at how easy it was to use. What a clever tool. And what a clever man who invented it.

When I did some research, I was surprised at how long blind rivets had been used. In 1916, a navy engineer in the UK called Hamilton Wylie filed a patent for an "improved means of closing tubular rivets" (granted May 1917). In 1922 he joined the British aircraft manufacturer Armstrong-Whitworth Ltd to advise on metal construction techniques. He continued to develop his rivet design with a further 1927 patent that incorporated the pull-through mandrel, which allowed the rivet to be used blind.

By 1928, the George Tucker Eyelet company of Birmingham England produced a "cup" rivet based on the design. It required a separate mandrel and the rivet body to be hand assembled prior to use. The company later modified the rivet design to produce a one-piece unit incorporating mandrel and rivet. This product was later developed in aluminium and trademarked as the "POP" rivet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Christian Political Theory (14) Conclusion

In the previous thirteen posts, I have outlined the important insights into political theory that I received as I studied the scriptures and pondered the problems faced by modern political systems.

I realise that most people do not understand their significance. That is because they still have strong faith in political power. They believe that the situation in society or the economy will improve, if the right person (or the right political party) is elected to power. Unfortunately, the history of politics shows that this is a false hope.

I am patient. The time is getting closer when human trust in political power will be severely shaken. When that happens, they will begin searching for a form of government that does not rely on human wisdom and power. They will then be ready for the insights that I have shared.

This full series can be read at Christian Political Theory.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Christian Political Theory (13) Voluntary Justice

My last big discovery was that the system of justice established by God in the Torah is voluntary. The judges raised up to apply the law do not have a police force to enforce their decisions. All the judges can do was hear the cased brought before them. They cannot force people to appear before the court. All they can do was hear the testimonies of the people who came before them and announce their verdict. They will specify the amount of restitution that should be made if a crime had occurred, but they have no power to enforce their decisions (more at voluntary justice).

In a voluntary community, the only constraint on behaviour will be peer pressure from within the community. When a judge declares a person guilty, the elders of the community should help the person make restitution (they might even lend them the money). They should do what they can to help the person change their behaviour and live at peace with their neighbours.

If the guilty person rejects the judge's verdict, they are also resisting the wisdom of the people who are trusted by the rest of the people living in the community. They are undermining people who have loved and served them. Their relationship with the community that had sustained them would be dead.

The person rejecting a judge's verdict would be left out of all community activities (Deut 17:12). They will lose all the benefits that come from participating in its activities, including financial support and spiritual protection. Protection from evil (physical and spiritual) comes from belonging to a community. The price of this protection is submission to the justice imposed by the community.

The person who rejects the verdict of the judge respected in their community is rejecting the authority of its elders. This withdrawal of respect eliminates the elder's authority to provide spiritual protection for them. Spiritual protection comes through submission to elders who stand together against enemy attacks. When a person rejects the authority of their elders, their protection evaporates (1 Cor 5:5,13).

People who refuse to comply with the justice imposed by judges recognised within their will lose physical and spiritual protection. This might have more serious long-term consequences than the penalty they are attempting to escape, as those who refuse to submit to judges makes themselves vulnerable to evil.

If a person persists in doing evil, they become a threat to the peace and security of the community. The leaders might need to exclude them from the community to prevent further harm.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Christian Political Theory (12) Powers that Be

After many years pondering the meaning Romans 13:1, I discovered that Paul was actually affirming the system of excellent judges interpreting the law of God established up in the Torah.

Every person should submit to the more excellent judges, because the ones that exist have been established by God (Rom 13:1).
When explaining which authorities are from God, Paul constructs a strange sentence that uses the verb "to be" twice. Translated literally, the verse means "the authorities that are, are from God." This is odd. Paul was saying that "the authorities that are" or "the authorities that be" are from God. This strange expression, "the authorities that be" refers back to where the book of Deuteronomy says that refers to "the judges that are".
You shall come unto the judge that shall be in those days: and you shalt inquire; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment (Deut 17:9).
A literal translation is "the judges that shall be in those days" or "the judges that are in those days". Paul would have been familiar with these texts. When he started thinking about justice, the Holy Spirit brought this expression to his mind.

The Torah introduced a unique system of justice: God's law applied by godly judges. Paul is simply referring back to that and confirming that God's will has not changed. He confirmed that the judges that have emerged in a free society are arranged by God.

More at Understanding Romans.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Christian Political Theory (11) Judges Emerge

In a free society, people will be free to choose a judge to decide their case. They will choose judges whose wisdom and skill is recognised by other people that they know. If people have the freedom to choose their judges, they will always go to people that they trust. In a community of trust, people can talk to someone who knows about the record of the judge. Wise judges will be trusted because they have a good reputation in their community.

Judges will not need to be appointed. They will emerge as wise people in their local communities. They will become judges when people start going to them for guidance in dealing with difficult situations. The title judge will be recognition of what they are already doing. Judges that make good decisions will get more cases to decide. Those that make bad decisions will get fewer cases. Those who make good decisions would become widely known in society.

As a person's reputation for wise judging spreads, people will start referring to them as a judge. The title does not change a wise person into a judge. It is just a recognition of what they are already doing. The reality is that a judge will only be as successful as their last few cases. If they start making bad decisions, people will stop bringing them cases, and they will cease being a judge.

A judge has no permanent authority. Their authority is limited and temporary, because it is gained through voluntary submission. When people take a dispute to a judge, they delegate authority to judge. This authority of a judge is limited to the situation that is submitted to them. The judge has no authority over any other aspect of their litigant's lives. The judge's authority is temporary. It ends when the case has been decided and any required restitution paid. When the case that has been submitted to the judge is complete, the authority that has been delegated is gone.

The people in a community will influence the choice of judge, by supporting the implementation of a judge's decision. If they undermine the decisions of a particular judge, by supporting a person who refuses to make restitution, people with disputes will avoid that judge.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Christian Political Theory (10) Two Standards

I discovered that a Kingdom Community will have two different standards.

  1. Citizens of the Kingdom will be expected to live by the gospel standards, because they have received the Spirit. Their law is Jesus’ new commandment.

    Love one another, as I have loved you.
    Turn the other cheek
    Give to those who ask for help.
    This type of behaviour should be normal for Christians, but it will not be expected from those who have not chosen to follow Jesus.

  2. Residents within a Kingdom Community who have not chosen to follow Jesus will be expected to live according to God’s Laws for Society.

    No stealing or theft.
    No assault or murder.
    If they want the benefits of living among a Kingdom Community, they will have to accept God’s law. (The same law will apply to citizens who have fallen away from their faith.) They will often benefit from Christian love, but they will not be expected to live by Christian standards.

The leaders of the community will say to the people living among them something like this. We do not expect you to live according to the standards of Jesus, but you will recognise the need for good law. We are offering you the best set of laws possible. We will apply them, if you are willing to accept them. That is all that you need to do to have a part in this community.

That is an offer that would be hard to refuse, as this standard will not be too hard for most people.

The Laws for Society in the Torah were designed to be rolled out to the world (but Israel failed to demonstrate their efficacious. These laws were God’s perfect standard for the people of the world, and for the children of Israel before they received the fullness of the Spirit at Pentecost.

The Sermon of the Mount is God’s perfect standard for people who have chosen to follow Jesus and receive the fulness of the Holy Spirit. This standard is only for the church, not for the world.

  • The Torah is God’s standard for justice.

  • The Sermon on the Mount is God’s standard for love. It does not replace the laws for society, but enables them to be fully fulfilled.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Christian Political Theory (9) Universal Laws

A problem with studying the Torah is that it is full of a lot of different stuff mixed up together: history, laws, sacrifices, tabernacle design, covenants, infection control, genealogies, priesthood rules. We need a principle to identify the laws that judges are required to enforce in every society.

After looking for a long time without success, I found the key I have been looking for. That key is a phrase in the book of Exodus. Whereas most laws in Exodus are addressed to Israel, I noticed that a section of laws in the middle of the book seem to be addressed to a universal man. They all begin with the expression, "If a man" (kiy ish). These laws are not addressed to Israel, but to all people. This set of universal laws begins at Exodus 21:12 and ends at Exodus 22:17.

Exodus 21:12-22:7 has two other distinguishing features that confirm my understanding that it is different from other parts of the law.

  • This section of law also stands out as being different, because it is expressed in the third person. Most of the other laws in Exodus are expressed in the second person, ie you shall not steal, you shall not murder. Moses used "you" because he was addressing Israel and announcing laws for his listeners and their descendants. The Ten Commandments are all written in the second person, as they were spoken to Israel. The laws beginning at Exodus 21:12 are written in the third person, ie if he does something, he shall receive this penalty.

    The third person is used when referring to someone who is not part of the conversation. It points to a third person, who is not the speaker (I) and not the listener (you). Moses used the third person here, because this section of laws are for all people and not just for those who participate in the covenant made on Mount Sinai.

  • Another feature that distinguishes the section of laws between Exodus 21:12 and Exodus 22:17 is that the subject of the verb is always "a man" or "men". There is no definite article, so the reference is not to a particular man, but to any man. These seem to be laws for all men or "everyman".

The use of the third person and "man" or "men" as the subject of the command marks off a set of laws that apply to all people in all societies everywhere. These laws are not just for Israel. The penalties for failure to comply with these laws are specified in a timeless way. I refer to them as the Laws for Society, as God intends them to be applied by judges in every society and culture.

The Laws for Society cover two areas of life.

  • personal injury
  • protection of property.
Biblical justice is limited to:
  • Theft or damage to property
  • Physical injury to a human person.
These two types of offence are the only ones specified in the Judicial Laws of Moses. There is nothing else. This makes God's Judicial Law very simple and easy for everyone to understand. It means that we do not need a Congress or Parliament turn out hundreds of new laws every year. We do not need laws books with hundreds of pages of detailed legislation. All we need is wise judges, who can decide in any situation, whether a victim was harmed by assault, or if their property was harmed or stolen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Christian Political Theory (8) Purpose of Law

Going into the land, the people need to know how live together in close proximity with each other. They did not need guidance for living while they were slaves in Egypt, because Pharaoh’s taskmasters controlled every aspect of life. The situation would be different once they had a land of their own, with no emperor to control them. Several things should be noted about the guidance that God gave them.

  • An executive branch was not established in the Law. This means that there was no one to enforce the laws. Obedience to the law was fully voluntary.

  • No legislative assembly was established in the Torah. God provided the laws that his people needed. His laws are better than human laws. He has given us his laws, so we do not need a legislative assembly to create human laws.

  • Judges emerged from amongst the people. They were not appointed. They emerged as the people took their cases to the wise people in their midst. Those who did well were eventually recognised as judges.

  • Crime - the main problems would be theft and violence. The law provided restitution and exclusion as tools for dealing with these crimes.

  • Economic/social issues – God gave guidance for economic life. These guidelines were voluntary. No one had authority to enforce them. They would be fulfilled as an outcome of love.

  • Defence – military leaders were temporary and participation in defence was voluntary.